With the beginning of the Christmas holidays on the horizon and controversy buzzing about some teachers heading south to spend the remainder of December with their families during a time of pandemic, the Department of Education is refusing to specify how many teachers have submitted time-off requests.
A Department spokesperson says that information will remain confidential “to protect the privacy of our staff.”
A statement sent to Nunavut News reads: “The Department of Education is advising staff to follow the recommendations of Nunavut’s chief public health officer (CPHO), who strongly advises against non-essential travel at this time. All Nunavummiut who travel outside of the territory must isolate for 14 days at one of the designated hubs before they return to Nunavut. Decisions about individual staff requests for travel will be based on operational requirements, and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”
John Fanjoy, president of the Nunavut Teachers’ Association (NTA), says the union doesn’t have access to the number of teacher holiday leave requests. He said the NTA supports all CPHO recommendations and is “advising all teachers to not travel over the Christmas break unless it is absolutely essential.”
James Arreak, executive director with the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities, said his organization isn’t discouraging teachers who intend to fly south for Christmas period.
“Why hold them back, really? A lot of people are struggling through some of the mental challenges of getting through the pandemic. So we’ve got to, by every means, try to support everyone at this point to ensure that they can cope – if they need help, they can get help,” Arreak said. “I think this is the number one concern at this point: let’s support one another, including teachers, (to give) the support that they need to get through the crazy school year.”
The issue arose in the legislative assembly in early November when Education Minister David Joanasie said his department was not entertaining the idea of having teachers working remotely from isolation hubs, which were established to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
Although the Department of Education reported greater success in recruiting educators this past fall compared to the previous two years, 31 vacant positions remain unfilled as of Dec. 9. Fifteen of those jobs are in the Qikiqtani region while eight of the vacancies are in each of the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions. Iqaluit is the community with the most voids to fill at 4.5 unfilled jobs, but Naujaat is close behind with four vacant positions.