Close Nunavut schools for the year, says teachers’ association president
“It’s time to make that call”
The president of the Nunavut Teachers’ Association says the Government of Nunavut should close the territory’s schools for the rest of the school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Fanjoy, NTA president, told Nunatsiaq News that keeping the schools open is causing unnecessary stress on staff and students.
“We believe that, for the safety of all our communities, schools should be closed to students for the remainder of the school year,” Fanjoy said.
“To prolong this, and the undue stress this is placing on our families, the families of our students, and on our communities and the unknown that is happening right now, it’s not necessary. It’s time to make that call,” he said.
If schools do close for the remainder of the school year, teachers will continue working, Fanjoy said.
“That doesn’t mean that teachers stop working. Teachers will continue to work to provide learning opportunities at home for students,” he said.
Speaking at a daily news conference on Wednesday, April 8, Education Minister David Joanasie told reporters that schools in the territory would only reopen on the recommendation of Nunavut’s chief public health officer. A decision about whether to reopen the schools is expected by April 21.
School closures were first announced by George Hickes, Nunavut’s health minister, on March 16, and were extended on March 31 to April 2.
A letter sent to Nunavut school staff from the Department of Education on April 7 ordered all school staff to return to their home communities by April 21.
“This is a mandatory return-to-work date,” the letter said.
Joanasie also said his department would assess requests from teachers to work remotely on a case-by-case basis.
“Yesterday the Department of Education sent a letter to all school staff about returning to work in their home communities on April 21. It is for staff only,” Joanasie said on Wednesday, April 8.
Right now, 93 school staff are out of the territory, Joanasie said.
To come back, Nunavut school staff need to follow the same isolation requirements as other residents returning to the territory. That means a 14-day quarantine period in one of four hotels designated by the GN before flying back.
“We’re making contact with those teachers who are in the south and supporting them in their requests to work from home and advocating to the department to support those requests. They should not put undue stress and anxiety and [the] physical safety of teachers at risk by compelling them to return from southern Canada if they feel they cannot return,” Fanjoy said.
“Many teachers were actually on spring break before the school closure happened, so they were kind of in limbo…. We highly recommended that teachers do not travel, but that doesn’t mean that we recommend that they forcibly be recalled back to Nunavut,” Fanjoy added.
The 93 school staff outside the territory represent around eight per cent of all school staff in Nunavut, Joanasie said. Fanjoy said he wants to know how the department will support teachers who are still in Nunavut when they return to work on April 21.
“We need to start switching our focus from teachers that are in southern Canada to the 90 per cent of teachers that are currently here who are going to be back at the work site. How are we going to be able to support our students, our parents? That’s where the conversation should be right now. It should be ensuring safe, sensible and realistic working conditions for our teachers,” Fanjoy said.
Fanjoy agreed that students should have options for learning at home while schools are closed, especially for those students who don’t have access to a computer or internet.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean a teacher needs to be at the school for four hours every day. That means that a teacher should only be at the work site long enough to produce those packages and have them distributed by the school. Teachers should be at the physical work site as little as possible. That is our opinion.”
But, Fanjoy said, the NTA does not support the collection of those packages by teachers for assessment. The department has not yet said if teachers will be collecting and marking work distributed to students during school closures.
“We think that is unsafe. We do believe that that’s an issue that needs to be addressed and we believe the department is working on that now,” Fanjoy said.
Doug Workman, chair of the Iqaluit District Education Authority, agreed.
“What’s going to happen when they start dispersing the work to the students? We have over 400 students at the high school here.… And how do you coordinate that? Students, generally speaking, need help to do their work. With social distancing, I don’t know how you do that,” Workman said.
Workman also said that some students have different learning methods that can’t be done from home.
“We have many students that have different ways of learning. Some need help, some don’t. It’s a lot more challenging. Some are on different learning plans and this has to be accommodated,” Workman said.
Although schools are closed, teachers were able to go back into their classrooms as of April 7 on a voluntary basis to help support students learning from home.
“I really wish at the beginning someone just took a breath and said, ‘OK we’re going to close the schools on March 17 and before we do that we need some time to prepare continuous learning packages for our students,’ and get an idea of how long this is going to take and how that will [be] choreographed,” Workman said.
James Arreak, executive director of the Nunavut Coalition of DEAs, said the coalition is also concerned about the safety of all school staff, students and parents.
“We’re scrambling to understand what this might mean for students at this time and for communities,” Arreak said.
“We’re trying to find out, do teachers feel safe to travel under these travel-restricted conditions? Hopefully we can figure this out in a way that works out for everyone going forward.”
“We have teachers that have their own children in their homes. We have teachers with underlying health conditions. The department has to be flexible. It has to offer work-from-home provisions for those teachers. It has to offer flexible working hours for teachers who are trying to provide for their students and also manage their personal lives through the pandemic.”
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief medical officer, told reporters on Thursday, April 9, that he would be meeting with the Department of Education next week to discuss school closures.
If any of those teachersbecome infected as a result of having to take public transportation to get to the hotels, what is the GN’s liability? Will their insurance cover a possible lawsuit?
I’m not sending my children back to school until I know it stops growing in the N.W.T I’d rather keep them home safe. I have 2 kids who have allergies and ppl with health conditions are easily triggered.
I’m not letting my children return to school, they can fail them if they like. Their health comes first. I’m pretty sure every parent isn’t sending their children back until the pandemic is over.
It is really about time that someone said something. Kudos to John Fanjoy. I watched the gn thing on tv yesterday and l hate to say but David Joanisie didnt have a clue what he was talking about. He stuttered and stammered hus way through every question asked if him. This is absolutely asinine what they are trying to do. Bring 90+ people back up here to do what? Make up packages to send out to kids that wont even look at them? Why? Better to give the teachers their pay during this and maybe they will think about coming back next year and say Hey the gn stepped up and helped us during thus time they are a really good crew to work for. May help in the long run. Close the schools like everybody else in the world and be done with it.
Minister of Education along with the Premier have no common sense what so ever! Both can’t see that bringing the teachers back up north will put a risk to all nunavutmiut during this pandemic -unreal.
The chief medical officer must act now to squash the illogical and racist policies of this GN. Shame on you GN for your reverse racism to such a tragic extent you are willing to cause death. None of you backwater guys should be making decisions.
Minister Joanasie, this is irresponsible on your part. Let this pass. Cancel the rest of the school year. Go back to school when it is safe to do show. It is not safe now for the teachers, kids, and families.
I totally agree with you, very irresponsible of him to have the teachers who are down south to return. I watch & listen to Igaalaq & Northbeat last night with, you could tell he was stuttering -reading someone’s notes or were those his own notes he’s reading? Like other provinces, close the school for remainder of the year -what’s the harm? For sure, teachers can prepare & do the worksheets from their home then circulate them. Not a huge fan of both the Premier Joe & Minister Joanasie.
I would like to thank our NTA for continuously having our best interest in mind and for always bringing common sense to the table. You are a very strong association and we are very lucky to have you advocating for us.
We appreciate you.
Not a fan of David right now. But do you really think he is the brains behind this? I am gonna bet George and Joe and their “expert” advisors.
I would love to hear something from our silent Member of Parliment and local members of the legislative assembly. I want their take on this. Not a copy and paste of someone elses speaking notes and a repost of programs that are going on.
I forgot we have a MP, I haven’t heard much from our MP for a long time. If our Minister and Premier will not listen to the people of Nunavut can our MP step up and talk to our GN to get them to think straight?
NTI, MP we need your voice for the people.
why were they allowed to leave and GN employees had to fill-in a skills sheet to be ready willing and able to work anywhere if needed. it is not fair. if a GN employee wanted to go they have to fill in a leave form. did those who left do that? Or do we have to look at their bosses to hear what they said as a miscommunication? i hope no one gets bonuses so GN doesn’t go into more debt.
“Allowed to leave”. No mere employer, even if it is the GN, can disallow a person from leaving. It seems to be a particularly Nunavut mindset that employers have that authority.
As for work expectations, that has varied widely from department to department. Many of these teachers were already out the territory for spring break when the travel restrictions were put in place.
The Department of Education did handle matters much worse than many departments though – their communication was less than stellar. They didn’t tell staff to ‘work remotely” (not, to be clea
Actually under most collective agreements employers have the right to cancel leave and recall employees. Leave approvals are at the discretion of employer and as long as the employer has a strong rationale for taking the decision there is nothing the employee can do except resign his/her position if he/she feels strongly enough about it.
I have a hunch that being in the midst of a pandemic would count as a strong rationale for leaving a geographic area with substandard medical facilities – and government officials that don’t understand the serious nature and scope of this PANDEMIC.
You are correct, as far as you have gone, but the information is not at all relevant in this situation.
No one is on leave. So, there is no leave to be cancelled.
They can certainly recall employees to the office, subject to the guidance of the CMO, but there have been no dismissable offences as of yet.
Minister Joanasie, who ever you are listening to in your department please stop listening to them and use some common sense!
Waste of time and resources and we all do not need the unnecessary stress.
Listen to your gut Joanasie, close the school year.
The idea that the GN doesn’t know whether schools will close is completely unbelievable, to suggest this is an outright lie in my opinion. But a necessary lie to at least give some weak sense of legitimacy to this asinine policy of bringing teachers back into the territory. Though I suppose someone needs to photocopy those homework packages no one is going to look at.
Minister Joanaise, history will not be kind to you, nor should it.
Nothing asinine about it. I understand that teachers were told not to leave after the schools were closed. That means they are technically AWOL right now and should be required to return after appropriate screening and quarantines are completed.
That’s the problem, teachers weren’t told anything. Other departments gave clearer instructions, the Dept Ed didn’t. The leadership team at Dept Ed was MIA in their instructions and guidance during that time.
Until April 21st (actually, as has been said elsewhere, the 23rd or so as it is impossible to follow the required 14 day quarantine and be back at work from the date that the notice was given on the 7th) the Dept of Ed is on very weak legal ground.
And yet, the leadership in the dept of ED continues to stay in that role after a decade of mismanagement, do we not deserve better? What else must the leadership do or not do until we see changes made!
Some staff have Children with Health conditions, also some staff them self have Health conditions. Then what? Make a small town sick with such small Health Centers. That Virus is not worth for the Teachers to come back to the North until the Pandemic is over. The Virus doubles… Better safe then sorry.. Keep the schools closed, even for the staff..
I know it’s a difficult reality for many of us to accept but whether you like it or not many of these southern teachers did not come here because they love Nunavut. If we ostracize them and withhold their income like quite a few seriously cold and mean spirited people are suggesting then many of them simply won’t return. Who will man the breakfast and lunch clubs then? How many of our kid’s soccer and hockey teams are coached by southerners who came here for the money… fifteen years ago?
So many of the comments about any of this highlight how easily our community would collapse on itself and why we MUST keep the virus out of Nunavut.
Shame on so many of us.
Well said John K. I dont understand what so many are thinking. The teachers are doing exactly what any other person has to do to get back here. Go into 14 days isolation and then get back here. With the very few (heath professionals etc, this is the routine for all including Inuit and non -inuit. Those is the rules coming from the Chief Public Health
Surprise to many of you, I do agree that the schools should be closed to the students.
That means the GN must bite to bullet and provide each student with a computer, internet services if that is required, and a site with the program of study or video conferencing with their teacher. Whatever is required.
Parents your responsibility is to ensure your child sits down in front of that computer and follows his/her virtual classroom.
Out children’s education is too important to be overreacting as so many are today.
Other more wise parts of the country have seen the light. They have cancelled the school year. Send the kids off to the land to learn life skills with their clans is far more useful then a colossal waste of tax dollars. Keep the teachers home as with everyone else as the medical professionals say.
These teachers also have loved ones, family down south, they have parents to look after, now they are being forced to return when the schools like Yukon should be closed for the remainder of the school year.
This really doesn’t look good on the GN or the Minister.
Also it is still a risk for these teachers to travel back, even with the 14 day quarantine, the morning they are scheduled to travel they have to leave the hotel, travel to the airport, be in the airport, go through security, sit and wait to board the plane, be in a plane with others. It’s a risk they could still bring the virus to Nunavut.
Use some common sense Minister Joanasie! Stop playing boss for a few minutes and think this through.
School year….todays date is 2020-04-10. I dont see a timeframe with which to salvage the school year. Dont have to go much beyond the time frame challenges let alone the strategic issues.
Few things at work here. I agree about teachers that left for couple weeks since isolation start, they should have applied for leave (of absence) as per protocol (90 in all). This would have kept most teachers of leaving for a break. Plus they would have prepared or all ready have five days of emergency plans, So – too late, move forward. Next.
By the time teachers made up their minds to go south, they should have known and knew that it takes 14 days isolation before going back to their community assignment. So that is five extra days of emergency plans for their students class work.
Now it started mount back then.
When the called for teachers to come back up to go to work on 21st things were already more than a day for isolation to start, plus by the time time they get to their designated hotel would have been 2 days taken. Teachers could start 23rd, provided that there are no weather issues or god forbid mechanical.
No non-essential workers were not allowed to come to Nunavut until further notice . Teachers can be deemed non-essential workers because of social and physical distancing rule.
I guess GN has enough funds to house teachers (90) in hotels with meals for 14 days. Plus they need to be cleared by Health Workers before allowed to travel back to Nunavut – so that adds up to 3 days and start April 24th for teachers to start work, for what? Finish report cards? Makes no sense.
it makes absolutely no sense at all, but it tells us a lot about the poor quality of our leadership in this territory. Frankly it is sickening.
I hear you all talking about our vulnerable teachers. Are they really to weak that they cannot go into a 14 day isolation and have a safe return into their communities? Seems like nobody has issues that FANS students, Medical Travel patients or other non-essential GN workers return to Nunavut after their mandatory isolation. This is just bullshit and teachers should be threaded just like anyone else. Continue mandating that they come back, or ask them to cancel their contract. Might as well ask Dough and John to do the same on a voluntary basis.
Mmmm, except that there have been no actions taken to justify cancelling a contract….yet.
If they don’t show up for work on the 21st, then the GN can start looking at firing people, but before that time they don’t have a case.
Have you not ever spent any time with any teachers in Nunavut? They’re slightly interesting, fairly entitled and definitely come off as a bit weak. I’m not surprised that they’re complaining about the idea of being required to return to work. Cost of doing business if you ask me. They should’ve known that the social and political environment in Nunavut is just as dangerous as the physical environment. That is, IF they did their research which is what all university educated intelligent people would naturally do.
Isn’t it better for the teachers not to come back from south, remember even the patients who have appointments with the doctors have been receiving the cancellation . What if one of the teachers have catched the virus before coming back to Nunavut.
What I would like to know is why the department is insisting that teachers physically return to work rather than work remotely (Joanasie said yesterday that working remotely would be assessed on a case by case basis, implying that teachers being physically in the schools to be the default expectation).
According to GN press releases, non-essential workers should be working from home whenever possible, and almost all of the work teachers will be expected to do can be completed from home.
People are characterizing teachers as not wanting to go back to work. Not true- many teachers have been and plan to continue providing learning packages for students (despite being given no directives when schools first closed). The objection isnt to working, its to having to be in the workplace and risking potential exposure to do tasks that can be done while socially isolating.
You can work remotely …. from your home in Nunavut. There is nothing in Joanesie’s statement that implies that schools will reopen to students and the half dozen or so teachers should very easily be able to practice physical distancing in a building as big as a school. Joamie school in Iqaluit accomplished it quite easily. I have said it before and will say it again. The teachers’ jobs are in Nunavut, they are being paid to work here and they have been required to return by their employer so they should do so.
Who would have thought that worked remotely means it must be in a province or territory of your actual normal workplace? This must be another one of those ‘Made in Nunavut’ hidden rules as it makes no logical sense! We have a serious situation happening in this world, our leaders need to take this seriously and step up to the plate. Not the time to be playing Russian roulette, people’s lives are at stake!
Don’t take anything Nothern Guy says too seriously, a little peek beneath the surface of many of his comments and you will see they range from misrepresentations of reality to outright lies. This one is no different. Working remotely means you can literally work anywhere, there’s nothing to suggest it must mean within Nunavut, that is a constructed definition that fits his obvious control fetish. Bringing these teachers back into Nunavut is irresponsible and poses too much risk and cost for what it promises in return. There’s nothing in his comments that refutes that, only this endless pounding on the earth and screaming “that’s the way it is”… totally moronic really.
You dont have to come back if you dont want to. Simply quit and the issue is resolved.
Worst advice ever. Try this instead, under no circumstances quit. Leave the onus with the employer to prove that their actions were legal.
There, fixed that for you.
They are very good at paying for their incompetence! There is a cost to taxpayers when the Government don’t know what they are doing. The teachers will ultimately win!
I think we all know that’s the ultimate goal for your Government. Small minded leaders who hate to see the so called ‘Southerns’, refer themselves as residents of your territory, so why should they pay them. This confirms that these so called ‘Southerns’ are only visitors to your land and they must be treated that way too! Racism is live and well in your territory! Mr. Minister do the right thing, resign!
I’m not talking about the teachers who have left the territory. I’m questioning why teachers in general, including the 600+ who are in the territory, are expected to physically be in their school building when they are non-essential workers and are capable of working from home.
Well, that’s the question isn’t it, and it seems to be in direct contradiction to the instruction that non-essential staff stay home. Was there a change and K-12 teachers declared essential? Also, the reporting is contradictory – they say that teachers may enter the school ‘voluntarily’. So, if no one volunteers, who is going photocopy these packages, which are not going to be distributed and marked anyway, according to the NTA?
About as clear as mud.
Did ya all read Georgie Hickes comments in the National Post?
“We’ve taken the most dramatic, aggressive steps on seclusion in the country,” said George Hickes, health minister for Nunavut”
Awfully boastful for a man who didnt even want to close down the schools until the DEA forced their hands.
Lets see what the next article in the National Post will say about him. There is a reason Inuit are not known for boasting.
Inuit not known for boasting? It’s a polarized scene; many do not, and then there’s the ultra proud ones who will boast about how amazing, strong, smart, tough etc. They are.
@not known for boasting” is a gross misstatement.
Has anyone really thought this out.. Schools closed on March 17th for at least two weeks. Most schools in Nunavut usually take their spring break around the Easter weekend so that people that want to head south can get a decent week or so for their break. I wonder how many of the 93 teachers that are in the south had their Spring Break tickets purchased. They would be heading back this weekend for the most part. So with how fast things happened they likely left more to take advantage of the tickets they bought and not to run away. 4 weeks ago we did not know how long this would go on… I for one would think that most of them were looking forward to getting back after spring break. Now I wonder how many will have second thoughts with the negative comments people post. i feel sorry for the kids that should have graduated this year and moved on to higher learning.. likely all that gets delayed. 14 days isolation is the recommendation so lets support that and get all our residents home….safe and sound.
No teacher will risk their life for money man Joe. Forget it Joe and go back to the land or go flying because as a policy maker you don’t know what you are talking about.
I’m anxious about going back to work in the school with people I know dam well have not been keeping 2m from people who & have repeatedly not stopped socializing.
People don’t think this is serious, and more so, because there is yet to be an identified Covid case in Nunavut: anyone with ½ a brain knows that the virus has to be here in the territory.
I’ve taken great care in following recommended procedures. My health is going to be jeopardized, being in a building with people who have been following very little procedures. There are those whose living situations do not allow for distancing in the home & there’s no easy fix for that. But there are those who choose to ignore the rules.
(even if only 1/2 of us are there at one time it still not safe). Is the GN going to be providing masks and gloves for employees to use where people are being forced to come together?
There’s been a huge focus on school employees who were out of the territory– many who have or now in the process of returning.
What I would like to know is how many ‘other’ GN employees are “working from home” but are not physically in Nunavut?
Nunatsiaq News could you please look into this.
As has been said elsewhere, lots and lots. There are six, that I know of, from my specialization.
“Working from home’ is inaccurate, GN employees are ‘working remotely’.
Some might say that this is semantics, but for the purposes of this conversation it makes a big difference. Considering that there was no guidance given at all by the GN about what ‘working remotely’ means, it is going to be messy.
Gov of Canada telling everybody to stay put and avoid travel and GN is ordering people to travel. An easy win in court. Could even sue for a lifetime of salary loss if terminated. “Your Honor, I was FORCED risk getting coronavirus by the GN who made me travel or be terminated from my position. Now I have PTSD or whatever.” GN might want to google “Charter of Rights and Freedoms”
Very good point, I hope the GN will get sued for putting everyone here at risk, they really go look like idiots and history will not be kind for them.
Any lawyers to fight on behalf of teachers? Please come forward
What is this obsession with the idea that returning school employees are somehow ‘more dangerous’ than other Nunavut residents returning to the territory.
Get this in your heads people: ALL residents must do the supervised 14 day quarantine first. That is teachers, people coming back for medical and any other resident.
No one had issues with Nunavut residents attending post secondary institutions in the south coming back to the territory after 14 days of quarantine. People were pleading for this to happen.
In various news/social media platforms people are freaking out about students going back to school on April 21: no one has said that! –your imaginations have gone wild. No students are returning to school on April 21.
I disagree with the idea of school staff coming back to work *in* the school on the 21st: that is what is risky because far too many people in communities have not been staying away from family and friends. People went to each other’s homes to do Easter Egg hunts today. For sure families- beyond the individuals that live in a given house, will be coming together for meals today. All of this is a far bigger issue than people who’ve undergone a mandatory 14 day quarantine returning to the territory.
If teachers are being made to report for work to prepare things for students, then teachers who went south should not be expecting others to print off and compile any work you’ve prepared remotely.
The difference is most of the residents of Nunavut were down for medical and were already in one of these cities Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton. The teachers on the other hand are in the maritimes, Quebec, Newfoundland Alberta and BC, southern Ontario, all over Canada. Most have to travel further.
The real question is why do they have to take the risk to travel! Why can’t they also work from home and why has the school year not been cancelled already?
It’s a unnecessary risk the GN is taking when these teachers are isolating themselves at their homes and are being forced to travel, the people from Nunavut are trying to get home. There’s a difference.
I think the GN should use the money they will spend to quarantine the teachers to make food baskets for the children who are now going hungry due to the schools closures. As we know, many of these students, this is the only meal or breakfast they get.
Waste of money because around this time of the year more than 80% of the students are not interested in school. Due to the long daylight hours they roam their communities and stay up late and if they do come to school they can hardly stay awake.
Schools need to save that paper and ink just in case sea lift dont make it due to the virus.
John is the GN hoping to put teachers who will be returning after their summer break in August into quarantine hotels? Umm, that will be a lot of teachers and a huge cost. Let’s see what will happen in August and how the GN plans to handle that.
To the GN, please focus on using that money to buy more laptops and provide internet services to homes so that teachers can teach the students online as other provinces are doing.
As an Inuktitut Instructor planning lessons is hard enough as I often have to translate lessons from English into Inuktitut. I’m hoping they will at least send already translated stuff.
So this article just appeared in Nunatsiaq news. It is about Nunavik, not Nunavik.
Yes, Nunavik teachers are still being paid . . . but here’s the thing: so are a whole lot of welfare recipients: Workfare For Welfare– there’s an idea.
Makes me wonder what the Department of Education for Nunavut might be planning.
NTA: are you ready for dealing with something like this?
Were not sending our kids back to school with the pandemic it s like sending them to a battle field and they dont know how to fight,they are our future.Let the government think clearly .