The Department of Education officially unveiled their reopening plan for Nunavut schools, during a press conference on July 24. Schools in the territory have been closed since March 17, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All schools are scheduled to reopen for the 2020-21 school year, unless otherwise directed by Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
The plan named 2020-21 Opening Plan for Nunavut Schools: Health and Safety outlines four stages describing how school operations will be impacted depending on the Covid-19 situation. Minister of Education David Joanasie said the plan was developed in collaboration with Dr. Patterson and Nunavut education partners.
Stage One: No Covid
Stage one addresses a scenario where there are no probable or confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the community or other communities in the region. In this case, all schools will open to all students for five days per week. All educational instruction will take place at schools.
As of July 24, with no cases of Covid-19 in Nunavut communities, all communities are at stage one.
Stage Two: Risk of Covid-19 transmission
In stage two, there are no active cases of Covid-19 in the community. However, the community is at risk of Covid-19 transmission. Through contact tracing, one or more individual has been identified to have potential exposure to the virus. In this situation, elementary schools will continue to be open full-time for five days per week.
The risk of severe complications or infections from coronavirus become worse with age, said Patterson. Since younger children are at less risk of infection and complications, “it doesn’t make sense to cut them off from school and socialization,” said the chief public health officer.
“Whereas for the older children, it would be easier for them to cope with reduced or altered learning schedules, and they’re also at greater risk of complications,” Patterson explained.
Middle and high schools will only be open part-time. This means learning will take place two to three days per week with staggered schedules and allow 40 to 60 per cent of students in school at one time. The students will also have learning packages in addition to in-school learning.
Unlike in spring, all learning packages will be evaluated, assured Joanasie, during the July 24 press conference.
Stage Three: Recovery from Covid-19
During this stage, the community is recovering from one or more Covid-19 cases and there is no evidence of further transmission of the virus within the community. All schools will be open part-time. Elementary students will attend school for three days per week, while middle and high school students will attend twice per week. All schools will implement staggered schedules with a blend of in-school and remote learning. The ratio of students permitted in school at one time will be 60 per cent for elementary schools and 40 per cent occupancy for higher level schools.
Stage Four: Covid-19 is present
At this final stage, Covid-19 is active within the community. All in-school and land-based learning environments will be closed. However, all educational instruction will be conducted remotely.
“Students will continue to learn and teachers will continue to teach no matter what stage a community is in,” said Joanasie.
In reference to plans for continuing school breakfast programs, the minister said, “As far as I’m concerned, all schools would be closed when there’s Covid-19 in the community and that would include the school food program.”
Patterson added that work still has to be done around how breakfast programs will be handled if schools are closed due to Covid-19.
Teacher recruitment amid Covid-19
“Last time this year, there were 74 educator positions vacant,” said the minister.
“It does not appear that Covid-19 has had an impact on educator recruitment this year,” he said. Joanasie shared that approximately 30 educator positions are presently vacant throughout the territory. He added this situation can “very easily change” since recruitment is ongoing and schools are reopening.