Empathy, reintegration key to GN school-year plan

Last year’s approach to reopening scrapped, Education Department says

If COVID-19 re-emerges in Nunavut this upcoming school year, closures and remote learning orders will depend on community-specific factors like vaccination rates. Alookie elementary school in Pangnirtung is pictured here. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

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.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Techie on

    What happened to the promised laptops that were supposed to help students without access to technology and the internet with remote learning. Several months ago, over a year into the pandemic, Joanasie said they were almost at the point of being ready to get out to the students. Well, two Junes came and went and less fortunate students didn’t learn as much as their peers. Money was spent on the laptops. So what’s the deal with them? I’m sure the whole thing would be bungled up once they gave them out anyway, but where are they?

    • Posted by Great question on

      This is where the territory misses the old rancorous editorials by Jim Bell, who was quite good at holding the government to account on issues like this.

  2. Posted by Hindsight is 20/20 on

    “The focus of the school year will be on assessing where students are at and getting their learning to where it should be.”

    Two years behind. That’s where. How many kids got a free pass these last two years that should have failed. Now a generation of kids that was already behind the rest of Canada is further behind.

    • Posted by Hindsight on

      How is this any different than any other non-pandemic year? Kids are being bumped up grades in order to please the Dept. of Education and their mandate. Kids are being moved on to high school with no concepts of basic math and literacy.

      A free pass is nothing new.

      • Posted by Ned Flanders on

        Out of curiosity…(just asking)
        In the last National assessment test in Reading, writing, math test across Canada, how did the students from Grades 4-9 in Nunavut fare?

        • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

          To Flanders: No comparison. They are bumped grade to grade from kindergarten to Grade 9 based on age, not on achievement. In Grade 10, they make them start doing nationally required math and English programs because they need those departmental to graduate. They are coach to correctly answer these exams and pass. But in reality, they are unable to read, write in both English and Inuktitut and secondary education is too high for most (There seems a tiered system that children of transients seem to have no barriers). Unfortunately with education having been around all these years, we northerners would be running our own affiars, but we just live on welfare with bad housing while educated people come up and have the good jobs and live in moldless homes while up here.

          • Posted by There’s mold free homes? on

            Any of the GN houses I’ve been in that aren’t brand new have mold, peeling paint, destroyed window sills and are just generally in disrepair. Waiting for things to get fixed seems to take just as long as any other unit to fix, as well. From my experience.

            • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

              Deflection? The fact of the matter is: The GN promotes social passing where students are upped grade to grade based on age and not on achievement. Long gone are the days when students actually repeated grades until learned enough to go on to the next one. This system is okay with those that push their children. Unfortunately many aboriginals with residential school history do not push their children to get educated. Thus we have uneducated youth on welfare with young ones, due to housing issues, live in overcrowded multi-generationals in one household. Also due to intergenerational traumas substance abuse is prevalent. Am imploring that if we are to have a university up here, then there should be proper education system tyoo.

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