Yellowknife school gyms will reopen to outside user groups on Nov. 8 as long as they have an exemption from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO).
Superintendents of the Yellowknife Catholic School Board (YCS), Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO) and Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) reversed their decision to keep gyms closed to outside groups until December, following an internal meeting on Oct. 26.
The superintendents had previously stated that gyms would remain closed to prioritize in-class learning and limit possible COVID-19 exposure to staff and students.
In an emailed statement from the YK1, Catholic and French school board superintendents, they said that "gymnasiums would remain closed until Nov. 8 to allow for a two-week return to school period to see what the case numbers will reveal in the Yellowknife area."
"If all continues to go well, and the number of cases continues to decrease, the gymnasiums will open on Nov. 8 to user groups that will present the required approved exemptions."
YK1 superintendent Cindi Vaselenak said the new decision came after the Oct. 26 internal meeting where she was made aware that the OCPHO was providing exemptions to community groups that adhered to safety measures like proof of vaccination – a protocol that many sports leagues in the territory are making mandatory.
N.J. Macpherson school is one exception to the Nov. 8 date.
Due to a positive case of COVID-19 detected earlier this week, the N.J. Macpherson school gym will not be available to user groups until after Nov. 15, Vaselenak said.
The school was also at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak last May.
"This will be how the landscape may look for user groups if a positive case is identified in a school," she said. "User groups will not be allowed in until the isolation period has expired."
Bill Othmer, the executive director of Sport North, said that getting youth back into gyms "is essential during these times," and that it "provides them with physical and mental benefits critical to their overall well-being."
Other sports facilities run by the city, like the Fieldhouse, Multiplex and Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, reopened to the public this week.