Parents across the Kivalliq will be breathing a collective sigh of relief as children finally head back to school at the beginning of this month.
It will be the first time in five months that students have attended class in person after concerns over the spread of Covid-19 led to a territory-wide shutdown in March.
As long as there no cases of Covid-19 in the territory, all schools will be opening for a full schedule of classes.
However, there will be a few changes in place to address concerns over the potential spread of Covid-19.
According to information provided by the Department of Education, parents should be prepared for schools to open with the following conditions: “enhanced cleaning; where possible, physical contact should be avoided; limited group activities including sports, assemblies, physical education classes, etc.”
Another big change is parents will not be allowed to enter the schools. If parents need to enter the school for any reason they should make arrangements in advance, according to the department.
“Parents and guardians should not enter the school when picking up or dropping off students and must adhere to current public health orders,” reads a statement on the department’s website.
In addition to reducing parental access within schools, there will also be new protocols to help ensure physical distancing among students, as well as additional measures to keep shared surfaces clean.
Based on the best available evidence and consultations with Nunavut’s chief public health officer, the education department states that children may be less susceptible to Covid-19 infection and may be less likely to transmit the virus to others.
“Schools are a controlled environment due to established cleaning protocols, set schedules for students and staff, and scheduled break periods. Any potential spread of the virus can be managed more easily.”
Baker Lake is first school back.
Baker Lake was the first school in the region to welcome students back with orientation beginning on Aug. 7.
In a post on the community Facebook page, Helen DePeuter, principal of the Rachel Arngnamak School, stated that parents of kindergarten students would be allowed in as far as the gym where they were to be met with by staff who would escort the children to the classroom.
“We can’t let any other parents into the school. We will have staff members to help direct children to the appropriate classrooms,” read the statement.
The department of education declined Kivalliq News’ request to interview individual principals, including DePeuter.
In order to ensure social distancing and reduce large gatherings, morning breakfast will now be taking place in classrooms. DePeuter also requested that parents do not drop their children off at school before 8:15 a.m. as there will be no one there to let students in.
“Please bear with us as we navigate our way around these challenging changes. We will try to keep community members informed, as we continue to receive new information.”
What if Covid becomes detected?
The current reopening of all schools is based on the fact that there has yet to be a single case of Covid-19 in the territory.
However, the department has outlined measures in four stages if a case should appear. The year will be starting off in Stage 1, which means no cases have been detected in the territory.
In the event there is reason to believe there has been a case of Covid-19 within the Kivalliq, Stage 2 would come into effect. The only thing that would change in this instance is that middle and high school students would have just two days of class per week.
In the event that a case of Covid-19 is identified within a specific community, that community would enter into Stage 3, which would mean just three days of school per week for elementary students and two for middle and high schools students.
If community transmission of Covid-19 was to occur, meaning if more than one case is detected, Stage 4 would come into effect and there would be a full shut down of all schools in the community.
Any decision about changes to which stage a community is in will be made by the chief public health officer and announced publicly.
First day of school by community
Baker Lake – August 7
Naujaat – August 10
Chesterfield Inlet – August 11
Coral Harbour – August 12
Rankin Inlet – August 14
Whale Cove – August 14
Arviat – August 20
source: Nunavut Department of Education