A number of teachers across the region have slowly started to get familiar with their classrooms and photocopiers again since the Government of Nunavut (GN) called Nunavut teachers in the south back to the territory earlier this month.

Victor Sammurtok School teacher Ana Leishman goes over some learning materials she may include in lesson packages for students so they can continue with their school work.
photo courtesy Glen Brocklebank

All school staff are expected to be back to work by April 21 when students could, possibly, return to school.

Education Minister David Joanisie made the announcement during a press conference on April 7, adding any teachers requesting to work remotely would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

The decision on whether schools will actually reopen or remain closed, however, ultimately rests with Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson, who is expected to announce the decision by April 21.

Nunavut schools have been closed due to the Covid-19 threat since March 17.

The decision to possibly reopen the schools has not been a popular one in some corners, with Nunavut Teachers’ Association president John Fanjoy having already gone on the public record to say the GN should keep Nunavut schools closed for the rest of the school year during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will be business as usual, however, if Patterson does open the schools, with students filing back to their classrooms to complete what remains of the current school year.

If not, teachers will still be expected back at work to plan for what Joanisie referred to as “report card season,” and help develop and prepare continuity-of-learning plans (lesson packages) for students.

The GN allowed Nunavut teachers to start volunteering time at their schools as of April 7 in order to start preparing learning packages, provided no more than 10 staff members are in any one school at any given time, and those in the schools strictly adhere to social distancing.

At the time of the GN recall, 93 Nunavut teachers were outside of the territory, with the majority of them being from schools in the Kivalliq region.

The teachers all require 14-day quarantine periods before returning to Nunavut, with the GN picking up the tab for their accommodation and meals in one of four designated southern Canadian hotels.

The quarantine period and accompanying medical clearance will make it all but impossible for the 93 teachers to be back in their classrooms by the GN’s April 21 deadline, which was referred to as a “mandatory return-to-work date” in a letter sent to school staff members by the Department of Education.

‘I’ll try to give my students the absolute best’

Glen Brocklebank of Chesterfield Inlet’s Victor Smmurtok School is one of the Kivalliq teachers who remained in his home community of Chesterfield Inlet following the Nunavut school closures.

He confirmed he was told he could voluntarily go into the school and start putting together learning packages for his students earlier this month.

“We were told, at the time, direction was forthcoming as to what we should include in the packages, but we haven’t received that direction yet (as of April 10),” said Brocklebank.

“The last day of school for students in Chester is scheduled for June 4, and the last day for staff members is June 5.

“If the schools are opened, some of my students want to go back to finishing their science fair projects. I talked to some of them while passing by in the community, always maintaining our social distancing, and they were still pretty pumped about science fair.

“So I told them we’ll take a couple of days to finish those off and then we’ll try to keep going through the rest of our science curriculum.”

Brocklebank will be preparing high school learning packages for his students.

“I’ll definitely include whatever direction is given, as to what we should include in the student packages,” he said. “I’ll try to give my students the absolute best, and most, that I can give them, as directed, in those packages.”

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