Yukon schools to return to 'near normal' operations, says minister

·3 min read
'We are confident that we can safely return students to the classroom in the coming weeks,' said Minister Jeanie McLean at a news conference on Wednesday morning. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)
'We are confident that we can safely return students to the classroom in the coming weeks,' said Minister Jeanie McLean at a news conference on Wednesday morning. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)

Yukon schools will be back to "near normal" operations when classes resume later this month, the territory's education minister says.

"We are confident that we can safely return students to the classroom in the coming weeks," said Minister Jeanie McLean at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

That means all students will be back to full-time in-class learning, "with some measures continuing to be in place to keep our schools as low-risk settings," McLean said.

Students won't be required to wear masks in class, she said, but they should wear masks in indoor settings outside the classroom such as hallways and other common areas.

Students will also be required to wear masks on school buses, as will drivers. Otherwise, McLean said, school buses will return to normal operation.

She said new operational guidelines for schools are still being developed and will be available "in the coming days."

Classes begin at Whitehorse schools on Aug. 23, while those at some rural Yukon schools begin either before or after that date.

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Restrictions eased

As of Wednesday, masks are no longer required in all indoor public places in Yukon. Other changes include bars and restaurants returning to full capacity for bar and countertop service, and the end of mandatory self-isolation for anyone entering the territory from within Canada.

The territory had 61 active cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening, with seven new cases reported over the previous day.

Yukon's death toll from COVID-19 now sits at eight people, with two deaths reported in the last week. Both of those involved unvaccinated people.

Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said the territory's risk of importing new COVID-19 infections in the coming weeks and months is deemed to be low — but COVID-19 is not going to disappear completely.

"We will see introduction of Delta and other variants," he said. "We may see further outbreaks, and we may even see fading immunity in our population."

Hanley acknowledged that easing restrictions brings more risk, but he said risk is unavoidable no matter what the territory does.

"The risk of carrying on with broad restrictive measures as we wait for Delta to come would be high risk to our well-being, and high risk to our ability to adapt to the ongoing reality of COVID," he said.

Government of Yukon
Government of Yukon

The main strategy now is to get more Yukoners vaccinated. Another 4,000 to 5,000 people getting their shots would mean about 90 per cent of the over-12 population was vaccinated, Hanley said.

"Our goal is now shifting from one of overall containment to one that is focused on reducing the impacts of COVID by limiting its spread and avoiding as much severe illness and death as we can," he said.

"So do the right thing Yukoners, and get vaccinated."

As of Monday, 81 per cent of adult Yukoners and 64 per cent of youth aged 12 to 17 were fully vaccinated, while 86 per cent of adults and 75 per cent of youth had received their first shot.

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