Empathy, reintegration key to GN school-year plan
Last year’s approach to reopening scrapped, Education Department says
Nunavut students and staff will be given the opportunity this school year to heal from the “challenging” and possibly “traumatic” experiences they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Education Department released its 2021-22 Opening Plan for Nunavut Schools on Tuesday, hours after the territorial government released its guide to ‘living with’ COVID-19.
Once students and staff are back at school, there will be an “urgent and important” need to share personal experiences with school closures, the plan says.
Some students may have struggled through family conflicts or had a tough time academically with remote online learning.
In May, Craig MacGregor, the vice-principal of Iqaluit’s Inuksuk high school, said some students disengaged from school because of difficult home situations, or couldn’t fully partake in remote learning because of internet connectivity issues.
Around the same time, staff at Joamie elementary school personally delivered printed homework packages to students in Iqaluit, along with free groceries to help families and keep students from going hungry.
The GN’s plan states “it will be vital to actively listen and understand the varied experiences of students, staff, and families” and prepares for the possibility that students and staff might find it hard to re-adapt to the environment.
Students might feel pressure to keep up with one another or get overwhelmed by the social environment of in-person classes, the plan states.
Conversation circles are one method to deal with this outlined in the plan.
It also gives detailed guidance for educators to address topics like empathy, safety and trauma with students, parents and each other, as well as how to re-engage students in learning.
The focus of the school year will be on assessing where students are at and getting their learning to where it should be.
Back in March, Arviat school staff took a similar approach to get their students caught up after about four months of school closures.
The plan also says giving students more time to complete tasks if needed, or providing a quiet space to work, should be considered.
In terms of assessments and grades, the plan states after a time of transition, assessments should identify students’ assets and the next areas they could improve in and build on, and not highlight deficits.
“Assessment tools and strategies should be used in a way that recognizes each students’ unique talent and skills and do not need to be formalized tests or measures,” states the plan.
The Department of Education will also take a new approach to school closures in the event of outbreaks.
School operations and closures will depend on the status of COVID-19 and variants of the virus in the community, vaccine rates in each community and local capacity to respond to cases, through testing, tracing and isolation.
So far, all schools are slated to reopen completely in-class at 100 per cent capacity at the beginning of the upcoming school year, unless public health restrictions change.