Some middle and high school students in Nunavut going back to school five days a week

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Middle and high school students in two of Nunavut's school regions will be going back to in-person classes five days a week starting Thursday, the territorial government announced in a news release Wednesday.

The change applies to students in the Kitikmeot and Qikiqtani regions, which include the communities of Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk, Taloyoak, Apex, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Grise Fiord, Igloolik, Iqaluit, Kimmirut, Kinngait, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay, Sanikiluaq and Sanirajak.

The students in these regions are moving from stage 2 of school operations to stage 1, which has the least restrictive learning environment out of the 4, according to the territorial government's 2021 opening plan for Nunavut schools.

In stage 2, middle and high school students had been attending in-person class two to three days a week, supplemented with remote learning when they weren't in class.

Now, they will be back in class five days a week, doing full days at school.

The change doesn't affect elementary school students in the regions as they already attend class in-person five days a week.

Balancing risk and impacts

Minister of Education David Joanasie said that while keeping students, families and school staff safe during the pandemic is his department's first priority, "it's important to recognize the negative mental and physical health impacts that reduced in-school instruction can have on our communities."

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said it was vital to balance the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 with the negative impacts school closures can have on children's physical, developmental and mental health.

"Based on the current status of COVID-19 in the Kitikmeot and Qikiqtani regions, there is no public health evidence to support ongoing school closures at this time," he said.

"I'm confident that students and staff in Kitikmeot and Qikiqtani regional schools can return safely to the classroom."

Patterson said all schools will continue to follow established health and safety protocols such as enhanced cleaning and custodial measures. They will also ensure students and staff who feel sick will stay home.