Nunavut schools may reopen with no physical distancing if there’s no COVID-19 in territory, draft plan states
Four possible reopening scenarios outlined
A draft plan from Nunavut’s Education Department outlines four possible stages for schools reopening in the territory this fall.
Each stage in the draft plan, obtained by Nunatsiaq News, represents a different level of COVID-19 exposure and outlines how schools would operate depending on the impacts of COVID-19 in each community.
Stage one would go ahead if there is no COVID-19 in the community and no contact tracing to the community. All school staff would report to school. There would be enhanced cleaning, limited physical contact and limited group activities. Under stage one, physical distancing in schools is not necessary, the draft plan states.
As long as there is still no COVID-19 in the territory, all schools will open under stage one for the 2020-2021 school year, the draft plan states.
Stage two means there are no cases of COVID-19 in the community but contact tracing has identified potential contact between community members and another community. All school staff would report to school with physical distancing of one metre. There would be some remote instruction for middle and high school students. There would be enhanced cleaning, limited group activities, limited eating in common areas, no sharing food and staggered bus schedules.
There would also be no physical contact between students. Physical distancing of one metre could also be enforced for middle and high school students, at the discretion of the chief public health officer.
Stage three outlines a plan if a community is in recovery after one or more COVID-19 cases. This stage would occur 10-28 days after the last case of COVID-19 moves into recovery, the draft plan states.
Stage three also involves strict cleaning, strict physical distancing of two metres between students, no physical contact, no group activities and no eating in common areas. Bus schedules would also be staggered and meal programs would be reduced, adapted or eliminated.
All school staff would report to school with strict physical distancing of two metres. Some remote instruction would also be initiated under stage three, the draft plan states.
Stage four would occur if there is an active case of COVID-19 in the community. All schools in the community would close for a minimum of 14 days and reopen at the discretion of the chief public health officer. No school staff would report to school and remote instruction would be initiated for all students.
Under the draft plan, remote instruction would involve learning packages, “use of supplemental learning tools” for middle and high school students and “enhanced land-based instruction.”
All schools will receive health and safety guidelines, including enhanced cleaning protocols, guidelines for busing and instructions on what land-based instruction might look like at each stage, the draft plan states.
School staff will also receive “detailed guidelines on assessment of learning loss, learning recovery, and techniques for teaching in an at-home or blended learning environment,” the draft plan states.
Those guidelines will include: curricular outcomes to focus on during learning recovery, samples of assessment tools to identify learning loss, information on land-based instruction, tools to support student mental health during COVID-19 and more.
Under stages two to four, school staff will also be in regular contact with students.
Education minister responds to DEA letter accusing department of being an “information vacuum”
A letter dated July 2 from the Iqaluit District Education Authority to the Department of Education called the department’s communication on reopening plans for schools an “information vacuum.”
In the letter, the IDEA claims it was not “consulted or even informed” about plans for the reopening of the 2020-2021 school year.
According to the Department of Education, six teleconferences have been held with the DEAs since March 16. Reopening plans were discussed at several of the teleconferences, a department spokesperson said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.
Doug Workman, IDEA chair, said he felt those meetings didn’t offer “substantive information.”
“We’re elected by the community and we want them to know that we take their concerns seriously.… It’s been a challenge for the last five years. It is an information vacuum. We’re being told things. We don’t want to be told … we want to have the discussion. We want to build consensus,” Workman said.
Workman also said parents have raised concerns about students falling behind if school work is not assessed, should schools close again. When schools closed earlier this year, teachers provided learning packages for students to pick up and complete at home.
“For us, there’s been a lot of lost time. The work packages, the voluntary picking them up with no assessment, to me has been a failure.… It looked like maybe 25-30 per cent actually picked up the school work. That’s not a good number,” he said.
On June 22, in response to questions from reporters, Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said schools would reopen in the fall.
Parents have also raised questions about what social distancing would look like, especially in classes that are already at or over capacity, Workman said.
“What does that look like and how many students can we put in a classroom?” Workman said.
“The old normal is not the new normal. I know, from parents here in Iqaluit, that they don’t want to see us going back to the old normal. I’ve been told quite a few times from parents that if that’s the case, we’re not sending our kids,” Workman added.
In his reply to the IDEA’s letter on July 8, David Joanasie, Nunavut’s education minister, outlined steps taken since the school closures on March 17. Those steps include forming planning committees and working groups for reopening schools in the fall.
“In as much as I recognize that my department could have done a better job in communicating the planning process with the public, I ask that you help the department communicate to the community that we are working on a plan to address public concerns about reopening schools. We have been cautious about distributing any documents without input from the CPHO [chief public health officer] to ensure we are addressing the most up to date public health orders and guidelines,” Joanasie wrote.
The department declined Nunatsiaq News’ request for an interview and provided an emailed statement.
“The Department of Education recognizes it is imperative to consult with stakeholders, such as the CNDEA [Coalition of Nunavut DEAs], DEAs and CSFN [Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut], before finalizing any plans and sharing them with the public. Based on the status of this ongoing work, and the need to consult with the CPHO and stakeholders, we will have a document to share with the public by the end of July,” a spokesperson for the department wrote.
The department and Nunavut DEAs are scheduled to have another teleconference July 15.