COVID rules stay the same as Nunavik students return to classroom

Regional health officials plan to launch immunization clinics targeting students aged 12 to 17 years

A Kativik Ilisarniliriniq school board bus drives through Kuujjuaq. Students across Nunavik are returning to school this week. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik students are back to school.

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq’s 2021-22 school year started Aug. 9, with varying start dates for schools across Nunavik’s 14 communities.

The return to class comes as the Quebec government unveiled its new back-to-school plan Wednesday. Students in Quebec will not be required to wear masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 while in their classrooms this year, only while circulating through the school or while on school buses.

That largely matches the restrictions Nunavik’s school board put in place in Nunavik schools last year — restrictions the school board plans to keep in place this year, at least for now.

“The school board continues to co-ordinate closely with the Nunavik public health authorities,” said school board spokeswoman Jade Bernier in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“Until we confirm with [the provincial government] the guidelines that will apply in Nunavik, the measures that were in place in our schools in May and June 2021 will remain.”

Those guidelines are that students in Grade 5 and up must wear masks only while on the school bus or when walking through common areas of the school. The same requirement applies to teachers and school staff.

Students in kindergarten through Grade 4 are not required to wear masks at all.

Teachers and staff in Quebec schools will not be required to be vaccinated, the province also said this week.

The Quebec government has estimated that 77 per cent of high school children will be fully vaccinated by the time schools have all opened across the province.

Regional health officials in Nunavik plan to launch immunization clinics targeting 12 to 17 year olds on Aug. 23, but have yet to announce details.

On Aug. 11, Quebec’s Education Minister Jean-François Roberge also announced the government would launch a $13-million strategy to help students who dropped out of school last year because of educational interruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic to return to class.

The Kativik school board will look into how to access that money for Nunavik students, said Bernier.

KI continues to recruit for teaching positions; many of Nunavik’s schools are also looking to support staff positions like janitors, secretaries, bus drivers and maintenance workers.

As of this week, Bernier said the board has 12 vacancies for homeroom teachers in the French, English and Inuktitut sectors.

“This situation is still expected to change during August, with both new hires and teacher resignations,” she said.

“Recruitment is on-going, with strategies that include online marketing and active participation in job fairs.”

If Nunavik schools stay on schedule, this school year is expected to end on May 26, 2022.

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