COVID-19 risk closes Taloyoak schools, while Iqaluit cleared to reopen Monday

Over 3,300 laptops and tablets sent to Nunavut high schools to support remote learning

Children are seen playing outside in Taloyoak in a file photo. Schools in the community closed for in-person learning on Thursday to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. (Photo by Jonathan Nuss)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Updated on Friday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m.

Taloyoak is the second Nunavut community to see schools close this week, days after they reopened for in-class instruction. Meanwhile, all school in Iqaluit have been given a green light to reopen at full capacity on Monday.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, announced Thursday all schools in the hamlet will be closed until Feb. 7 to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Contact tracing has identified an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 to the student population,” he said in a news release.

There were 16 cases of COVID-19 in Taloyoak on Friday.

Since reopening on Monday, schools in Igloolik have also been closed due to a spike in cases and transmission of the virus in the community.

Igloolik had 64 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, just one week after the local case count was at zero.

Schools in Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Kinngait, Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Sanikiluaq are open at half capacity, while the rest of Nunavut’s schools are at full capacity. Iqaluit schools will be allowed to open at full capacity on Monday.

On Friday afternoon, Patterson announced public health measures in Iqaluit have helped reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Nunavut’s capital.

Last week, Health Minister John Main said parents who were concerned about sending their kids back to schools had to decide what they were comfortable with and make their own judgement call.

Patterson’s message last week was for parents to pay attention to risks associated with other activities in their communities, not just the risk of sending their kids to school.

On Thursday, he said it would not be appropriate for parents to keep kids home from school just because they live in the same house as someone who isn’t vaccinated.

But, if the student lives with someone who has COVID-19, that would be a good reason to keep kids home to isolate, he said.

If teachers get sick, substitute teachers will be hired, said Education Department spokesperson Troy Rhoades.

“In the case where there are not enough substitutes in a community, schools may need to cancel a specific class or grade,” he said.

This year, every school got an extra full-time position filled, which could be a substitute, student support assistant or custodian.

“Unless the CPHO advises that a school must close, the department’s goal is always to keep a school open, safely,” Rhoades said.

For students learning remotely, the Education Department is taking a mixed approach, with some internet-ready devices being provided to schools for online learning and some printed learning packages being used.

The department has purchased 5,309 digital devices like laptops and tablets to support high school students’ at-home learning and staff, Rhoades said.

Of these, 3,389 have been delivered to schools in each region, 320 were on route and 1,600 have been ordered, Rhoades said on Jan. 13.

The 1,600 devices are on order but haven’t arrived yet due to global supply chain issues, he said.

Rhoades said schools can distribute the devices to students and grades where there is a need for them.

“Unfortunately, unavoidable internet and bandwidth issues in some communities may affect the use of devices,” he said.

The devices that have been delivered are already in every high school and were ready to be distributed to students and staff, Rhoades said.

Across Nunavut, there were 320 active cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by mary on

    now teacher sick at middle school with covid here. it goes everywhere in the schools.

    • Posted by Doug on

      do you mean the middle school in iqaluit? my kid goes there how come I am finding this out through nunatsiaq?

  2. Posted by what a nice picture on

    That is one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen!

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