Schools to open on case-by-case basis, says Nunavut education minister

·2 min read

Schools across Nunavut will begin opening up on a case-by-case basis beginning on Jan. 24, depending on each community’s COVID-19 status, says Education Minister Pamela Gross.

“It’s different based on [each community’s] situation — if there’s COVID-19 in the community or not,” Gross said during a territorial government news conference on Tuesday.

As of now, teachers can return to schools on Jan. 17 and students will learn remotely until they return to school, either through the online learning platform, Edsby, or through take-home learning packages.

Exact dates for returns to the classroom will be decided later in the week by chief public health officer Michael Patterson.

To support remote learning, the Education Department has distributed digital devices, such as laptops, in every community, said Gross.

The department has 856 of these devices in the Kitikmeot region, 1,761 in the Kivalliq and 2,672 in the Qikiqtaaluk. Gross said although the devices are meant for high school students and teachers, the department is leaving it up to the communities to decide where they go.

“Schools have the flexibility to identify students or groups where there’s a need and distribute accordingly,” she said.

Each school will follow the government’s plan set out at the beginning of the school year and additional health and safety guidelines provided by the Education Department, Gross said, adding that schools have been given medical-grade masks for adults and children.

There are 192 cases of COVID-19 in 14 Nunavut communities, with one presumptive case in Taloyoak announced Tuesday. Although case counts are decreasing in recent days, Patterson says that can partially be attributed to lack of testing.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been concerns about how limited access to food and unsafe home lives can affect a student’s ability to learn.

Gross said the government understands the impact school closures can have on students’ lives and learning experience.

She mentioned how students won’t have access to food programs during online learning, but the department will work with each school to restart those programs when schools open up.

“We must balance the risk of transmission of COVID-19 with the harms of extended school closures,” she said.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News

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