From November until March, there were no classroom lessons at John Arnalukjuak School in Arviat – or at either of the community's two other schools. Outbreaks of Covid-19 have had prolonged impacts on the community and consequences for students' education are uncertain.
eanoee/Wikimedia Commons photo

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on education. Nowhere has the effect been more acute than Arviat, where two outbreaks of the virus have occurred.

The community’s three schools were off limits to students from November until March, and that followed a lengthy territory-wide closure of schools from mid-March 2020 through fall.

MLA John Main said he has heard “a lot of concerns” from parents and school staff.

“The parents’ concerns relate to the fact that children are not getting the education they require and perhaps they have lost some educational hours,” Main said to his colleagues in the legislative assembly on Feb. 24 via livestream from Arviat. The community had declared a state of emergency during an outbreak of the virus, preventing Main – and everyone else – from travelling.

In a statement to Degrees of Success, the Department of Education described the pandemic as “disruptive and challenging” to learning. The department acknowledged there will be some repercussions from the rapid adjustment to remote learning, but the extent remains unclear.

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“Jurisdictions across the country are wrestling with the question of how to address learning loss for students in these uncertain times,” the statement reads. “Due to decreased face-to-face instruction and the challenges of remote learning, learning loss will likely occur; however, teachers are accustomed to working with students to identify gaps in learning and differentiating instruction to address those gaps. The value of student-teacher engagement and socialization at the school level is very important to student success.”

The coursework and learning packages that students take home, once completed, are assessed by teachers. However, essential components for success under these circumstances include positive collaboration among schools, homes and the broader community, according to the Department of Education.

The department has developed a guide for parents and guardians – Caring for Our Children and Ourselves During Covid-19 – that details what remote learning comprises and how they can support their children’s education at home. The guide also addresses stress management and how to maintain healthy routines during these “unprecedented times.”

Remote-learning resources have also been created for educators, such as a Recovery Learning Framework for School Leaders.

Education Minister David Joanasie outlined some other steps his department has taken, such as the purchase of 5,000 laptops and tablets to aid remote learning. As of late February, 2,300 of those electronic devices had been received and the remainder were expected to arrive by mid-March.

“Although computers have been distributed, not all students will have access,” Joanasie admitted. “However, on an ongoing or daily basis… our teachers have to get back (to) their students with how their remote education is going. Some homes, however, don’t necessarily have phones and it has been difficult in the area of communication.”

Based on what is happening in other provinces and territories, the education minister said the Government of Nunavut has “presented the option” for Grade 12 students to have a choice whether to write departmental exams.

Approached about whether it would be in some students’ best interest to repeat grades, Main told Degrees of Success that this is a conversation best left to parents and teachers.

Main asked Joanasie whether there had been any transmission of the coronavirus within Arviat’s three schools.

The education minister replied, “I can state that we did have staff that were impacted by Covid and I’m not aware of whether or not transmission occurred within the schools.”

The Department of Education alluded to assistance that educators from other communities provided to Arviat school staff.

“A collective effort has been made to support the Arviat learning community. Colleagues have supported their fellow teachers by covering off classes where necessary,” the department stated. “Educators and departmental staff in other regions have shared or created learning packages for Arviat students whose teacher may be ill. It has truly been a shared responsibility for the well-being of Arviat students, as well as other students in the territory who may be impacted by Covid-19 school closures.”

The chair of the Arviat District Education Authority did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.

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