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Leave teachers down south

It’s understandable that the Nunavut government wants to get some semblance of an education program going while Covid-19 continues to grip the country.

Although our territory is still unscathed by the coronavirus, now is not the time bring teachers back or reopen schools.

The callback of some 90 Nunavut teachers in the south and the pressure to reopen Nunavut schools in light of Covid-19 risks putting the territory’s so far perfect zero case load in jeopardy.

From what we know about Covid-19, even if teachers go into quarantine outside the territory for two weeks before returning, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that none of those teachers will bring Covid-19 back with them.

We take that risk with critical workers but at this point in time teachers are not essential. It would be foolhardy to attempt to reopen schools with less than two months left in the school year.

Although online distance education measures are desirable, considering the frailty of Nunavut’s internet systems and with so many households lacking access, it’s simply not feasible for most students.

The grace of whatever deity you may believe in, the smile of lady luck, the fear of Covid-19 among most Nunavummiut, our extreme isolation, and the hard work of GN and hamlet employees and retail workers on the front lines in every hamlet have taken us this far.

The GN did a great job stopping travel in-and-out of Nunavut, but can’t enforce social distancing if lives depended on it, and now, ironically, may put people in that position if classes do resume.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer since October 2018, knows 14 days in isolation is usually sufficient, but he undoubtedly is aware some Covid-19 patients still posed a risk more than three weeks after symptom onset.

At some point in time we’re going to want to figure out how to bring education back to the territory, and how to get all our students, especially those Grade 12 students who were due to graduate this year, to recover their lost classroom time. There are bigger fish to fry at the moment, and right now the biggest of them all is ensuring we eliminate any possibility of Covid-19 from spreading to any Nunavut community where our health-system would soon be overwhelmed if there was an outbreak.

As for “renegade” teachers who would refuse to fly back to Nunavut, we have a hard enough time recruiting teachers as it is. A power play to enforce their return will not help that and will only hurt our ability to rebuild our education system once the pandemic is over.