School attendance down across Nunavut

‘We encourage all students to go to school,’ says Education Minister Pamela Gross

Education Minister Pamela Gross (right) and Dr. Michael Patterson (left) are seen here speaking at a COVID-19 update on Feb. 1. (Photo by David Venn)

By Mélanie Ritchot

School attendance across Nunavut is down about 26 per cent since classes opened back up for the winter term.

Education Minister Pamela Gross gave the updated statistics at Tuesday’s COVID-19 news conference.

For the week of Jan. 24, attendance was 29 per cent lower than normal in the Kitikmeot, 27 per cent lower in the Kivalliq and 21 per cent lower in Qikiqtani schools.

Some students are isolating due to COVID-19, and others are staying home because of fear of getting COVID-19, said Gross.

“We encourage all students to go to school,” she said.

When asked whether students who choose to stay home will get at-home learning packages even if schools in their communities open up, she said at-home learning is a shared responsibility.

“I believe there are instances where students do have learning packages created and sent home for them,” she said.

In Baker Lake, where schools are open at 50 per cent capacity, administrators are working with families who choose to stay home. The high school has set out a drop box for students to leave completed work to be graded.

“We recognize that not all families are comfortable with their children attending school,” states a Facebook post by the community’s Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School.

Health Minister John Main said his department has been hearing concerns about school from worried parents and elected officials, and encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

“We understand that it’s stressful for many parents,” Main said.

Mass vaccine clinics for youth are being held in 16 Nunavut communities this month and pediatric vaccines are available by appointment in the other communities.

Some parents are worried about sending school-aged children back to school in circumstances where they live with younger children who are too young to get vaccinated.

When asked who will take care of entire families who get sick if a child brings COVID-19 home from school, Main said there are government supports in place, but resources are stretched.

There are some government-funded food hampers available to isolating families, and accessing virtual public health advice is also a possibility, he said.

“That would likely be the scenario and I really do sympathize with the family and understand why they would be concerned because it’s a very stressful time for many Nunavummiut,” he said.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said so far no COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in Nunavut schools since the start of the current wave of COVID-19.

For an outbreak to be declared in a school, he said there would have to be five cases reported in a classroom.

In the event of an outbreak, a public announcement would be made and either specific classes or the entire school would be closed.

The head of Iqaluit’s DEA, Doug Workman, said he has heard from parents that some kids are being sent to school after testing positive for COVID-19.

Patterson said on Tuesday it’s hard to know whether transmission is happening at schools or among students after hours.

“Oftentimes when we do contact tracing around classes we find students who attend a class together will socialize together,” he said.

“To know whether the transmission happened in the classroom or at those social gatherings is impossible.”

In the coming days, contact tracing is also changing to focus on high-risk areas like congregate living areas and critical services, Patterson said.

“To trace every case is pretty much impossible,” he said.

“Like every other jurisdiction, with all the changes we are not capturing, by any stretch of the imagination, all of the cases of Nunavummiut catching COVID-19 in the territory.”

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(56) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bring your brooms, ’cause it’s a mess. on

    ‘We encourage all students to go to school,’ says Education Minister Pamela Gross
    Next headline,
    “Red Cross, feds to deploy 8 nurses in Nunavut”
    “When asked who will take care of entire families who get sick if a child brings COVID-19 home from school, Main said there are government supports in place, but resources are stretched.”
    AKA, we’d like to help, but we don’t guarantee it. You might be on your own.

  2. Posted by JB on

    One way of having better attendance might be to provide more options to students. In Ottawa students have the choice of in-person, online synchronous, online asynchronous, or printed units…students are all given chromebooks & also supported with internet at home… Didn’t the government provide chromebooks to all communities for online learning? why not provide better options to support students who are anxious of a return to in-person? I’m interested in how the online school eventually rolled out. Sure heard a lot about it at the start of the pandemic!

    • Posted by Regular Reader on

      Indeed, it seems there was a lot of chatter about this from day one of the pandemic. I recall reading a few stories, even near the beginning of this most recent outbreak, that told us “the Government has ordered laptops for students.” I would like to hear more about this too. Maybe Nunatsiaq News could ask this question at the next news conference?

      • Posted by Nunavut Teacher on

        Teacher here: I won’t say where but all of my students have laptop’s and wifi hotspots they can use. The problem is that they are limited to 10GBs a month and I was told that Nunavut’s internet infrastructure would not be able to handle all of our students logging on to the internet at once. It might be that was initially planned and then they discovered that the infrastructure for the internet in Nunavut was not up to the task.

    • Posted by We Are Not Ontario on

      We are not Ontario. We don’t have sufficient personnel, and even few managers, with the skill sets to run such a system.

      • Posted by Dave on

        This answer nails it.

        Ottawa has a population of 1.1 million people and have access to far more teachers and specialists than Nunavut. It isn’t possible.

        However……… the GN could have bought these resources from other jurisdictions, as many jurisdictions have them available for sale to make up for the cost of creating them. The GN choose not to.

      • Posted by JB on

        I guess if it’s not feasible , why did they announce that as the plan ? Why did they buy so many laptops and send them to each community if it is was never possible in the first place ? And just FYI, when announced , they made it clear that they DID have the resources and personnel to deploy such a system and DID have the ability to provide internet to households . Students need and deserve better options

        • Posted by John K on

          This is Nunavut. We pretend we can do things that we obviously can’t all the time.

    • Posted by Noona on

      Please dont compare Nunavut to Ottawa! Chromebook need internet. Our internet wouldnt support a whole class of students online at once. We.cant even have fully functional Team meetings due to low band width. Fix the internet up here first. Then provide free internet to all the households. Then we can talk online learning. BTW. I heard the chrome books went to senior highschool students.

      • Posted by why not? on

        Nunavut had tons of money to throw at isolation hubs to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, now they are talking about education? give me a break! this should have been priority right next to hubs! children are the unfortunate casualty of the pandemic. and this crap that kids need to learn outside the classroom BS. kids learn outside classrooms all the time! With high school children though, lack of proper education = less opportunities for post secondary education and beyond. And now some IHS students have to isolate due to being a covid contact, why can’t they have a zoom classes on those devices as oppose to the crappy program known as edsby? i can’t imagine how many laptops and wingle sticks for students and teachers that can be purchased with just a tiny fraction of the money spent on the useless hubs.

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      Have you ever had trouble with band width?
      Have you ever complained about slow internet?
      Now add potentially up to 10,000 me re users and guess what happens.
      Band width gets so slow as to be unusable.

  3. Posted by one eyed kookabura on

    Baker lake – 18 confirmed cases, schools 50% capacity
    Iqaluit – 130 cases, schools 100% capacity

  4. Posted by why u dum on

    Per haps if the rest of the government departments returned to work like all the teachers have…more students would be class. teachers do you know that the RSO’s are all working from home.

  5. Posted by IQ values on

    Well it’s no wonder attendance is down. Last year during all the lockdowns only 30% of the homework packages were completed, yet everyone was graded based upon some obscure combination of work already done and IQ values. The previous education minister dodged all the media questions about how the students were graduated and the “fairness” of it. Trudeau 2.0 Congratulations, you have given the students zero motivation to even take school seriously, and I cannot blame them.

    And when the students have to isolate due to a exposure to COVID they are given no direction or homework in any form. My teen is isolating since Feb 4th due to a cluster at Inuksuk high school in Iqaluit. She was given absolutely no homework, or direction as to what she should be studying.

    • Posted by When the going gets tough… on

      Ah yes, IQ values. The GN loves quoting IQ values when they are being exposed for their incompetence.

      Kids failing school and still getting a pass? IQ. Staff socializing nonstop at work and not working? IQ. Creating weird and obscure job positions to the detriment of the taxpayer? IQ.

  6. Posted by Uvanga on

    Why no other options for families? Why encourage children to go to school when there are outbreaks in the communities? I’m so confused by the Government of Nunavut. Administration is out the window, perhaps because our system is largely administered by Nurses, not executives or anyone with any administration experience. STOP DIRECT APPOINTING SENIOR MANAGERS, GN. There will be huge issues when the public no longer trusts their leaders. So many Nunavummiut don’t trust the healthcare system and the justice system as it is, and these confusing politicians and government officials won’t help the matter one bit.

    • Posted by Quick and Easy on

      DA is a quick and easy way to increase Inuit employment numbers, and then everyone can take a bow.

  7. Posted by Nothing new… on

    School attendence has always been dismal in these parts of Canada, no need to blame Covid — Start charging parents with truancy and see what happens next: Attendance will go up, graduation rates will go up, Inuit employment will go up.

    • Posted by Motivation on

      You think the parents that don’t get their kids to school will pay charges? Yeah right. The best approach would be to put the income assistance offices in the schools and have them open only from 7:30-8:30am. That’ll get the kids to the schools.

      • Posted by Oh Ima on

        Pretty damn racist statement if you ask me, no one mentioned the reason why school attendance is low in Nunavut and most indigenous communities because of extreme poverty we face in our communities. Even if you go to school hungry you can’t concentrate at school cause you’re hungry. And I know I’ll get a response about the intergenerational trauma has a lasting effect, some parents don’t force their children to go to school because of their experience with residential school. My brother was kidnapped by RMCP to take them to residential school and he didn’t make his kids to go to school.

        • Posted by “Racist” on

          This word gets used so much nowadays it has lost its meaning, so here’s a refresher:

          “the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.”

          Nobody mentioned anything about race here, especially about marginalizing another race. Kids may go to school hungry, but they are fed Breakfast and Lunch at school, usually because mom and dad spent all their money on sin tax items.

        • Posted by Motivation on

          My comment applies to all races. The kids that have poor attendance in the south would also have their attendance improve if the income assistance offices there were in the schools too. It’s not about race, it’s about socioeconomics.

        • Posted by Open Your Eyes and See Our Surroundings on

          Clearly you don’t know what the word racist means. Ethnicity and race has never been mentioned in this thread, nor is it even subtext. However, socio-economic status is very much the topic.

          Hate to break it to you, but there are welfare receiving non-Inuk folks in Nunavut. Open your eyes and look around and you’d know this.

          • Posted by Orange is the new black on

            With the decline of critical thinking today we see that the use of terms like racist or colonial to many commenters is equivalent to saying “bad”. How often it undermines any point this wish to give.

  8. Posted by Isolate on

    GN hampers are one per household. If you’ve applied fkt GN hamper when isolating previously you cannot receive a hamper again.

  9. Posted by Where are the real leaders? on

    Is it too soon for a vote of no confidence?

  10. Posted by Frank on

    Expecting students to LEARN at home is like expecting GN employees to WORK from home.

  11. Posted by Parent on

    My child has not been in school due to isolating. Can’t wait for my child to return to school. My child is double vaxed and needs to get back to socializing before they get long term damage from isolation.
    Covid is the new chicken pox. Need to get it to get better immunity. That’s why some schools are back to 10% occupancy

    • Posted by Everybody gets chickenpox? on

      Most people my age were vaccinated against chickenpox and have never had it.

  12. Posted by Jeannie Evalik on

    Why is the Government encouraging students to go to school now? There is a vast number of Covid-19 cases and still getting more. At the end of December and beginning of January there were only a few cases just starting and there was a lock down. Now Rhee are over 500 cases and now you are open and encouraging the students to go to school. We chose to keep ours at home.

  13. Posted by S on

    I’ll say it ONE MORE TIME:

    Either we lock down everything, 100%, including schools, prisons, stores, hospitals, services, airports, utilities, offices – EVERYTHING – or we go back to 100 % normal, just as we should have done two years ago.
    Canada is shameful; Nunavut is worse

  14. Posted by Meh. on

    Despite all the hype, this new government is not off to an impressive start.

  15. Posted by IqaluitKaren on

    The Department of Education’s handling of schools during this pandemic and during this current outbreak has been not only inadequate, but shameful. Both the current and past Minister have demonstrated they have no knowledge of what goes on in a classroom on a daily basis or how a school actually functions, and Gross has proven incapable of answering direct questions concerning student learning. It’s an embarrassment. She is not even capable of giving a definitive answer in this article about what access to education is available to students who are unable or unwilling to enter school.

    Students in school right now have inadequate PPE (ill fitting masks that do virtually nothing), classrooms are barely being cleaned let alone receiving “enhanced cleaning” and teachers are receiving little to no guidance on protocols to follow when their students test positive. It has never been more evident how little the department cares about students and school staff.

  16. Posted by Angry Parent on

    ‘We encourage all students to go to school,’ says Education Minister Pamela Gross

    My son wanted to go to school but could not because there was no teacher and no subs. ?

    • Posted by Arnold McGillicuddy on

      Education Minister Pamela Gross seems confused and unprepared at the press conferences. It’s sad.

      With nearly all the GN senior managers (DMs, ADMs and Presidents etc.) being directly appointed without a competitive process or any regard for their education, skills or experience; our government has created a situation where all decisions are made without any concern for operational efficiency or concern for Nunavummiut relying on government services and programs.

      Decisions made, and any work done by the politically appointed is solely focused on maintaining a status quo and protecting all the other politicians and politically appointed elite.

      If that system ended and the GN adopted a fair HR process, we would see more capable leaders and then government services would improve.

      • Posted by No Win on

        Then the Inuit employment numbers would fall and the government would get roasted for that.

        Our government is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t.

    • Posted by Minister is Gross on

      Well, this is a direct problem of the Dept of Education was they ensure that each community has substitutes – quoting Quana here. Do they? 100% not. The only portion the RSOs (Dept of Ed’s minions) are responsible for are dragging out the paper work submitted for subs. NTA takes about 2 weeks to get back… still waiting on NEU results circa 2017.

  17. Posted by Single mother on

    I’m a single mother of 5, hesitant about sending the children to school as I would be the only one taking care of the sick. Yes, there are isolation kits and such but, what about the well being of the single parent? How would the single parent be helped with the stress, the concern, the daily life at home? What if the parent gets covid? What if the child/ren has to go to the health center for emergency, who takes care of the other children then? How does the single parent receive help with this scenario? This is why I am hesitant about sending my children to school,

  18. Posted by High school parent on

    What ever happened to all those rapid tests sent to Nunavut? Were they all reserved for use only for airline travelers? The schools are proving to be more of a spreader then flights are, go figure youth don’t reliable wash their hands etc

    • Posted by anon on

      It’s airborne so hand washing isn’t going to prevent transmission as much as it does for other viruses.

      • Posted by Nurse Anon on

        Since humans learned that soap and water eradicate diseases a few hundred years ago, I suspect you maybe forgot that fact. The non armchair Doctors and Nurses CONSTANTLY push to wear masks and diligently wash hands as being the most effective way to prevent contracting COVID.

        Schools, public places, airplanes are all mandated currently for mask wearing. If people don’t wash their hands, thats on their unsanitary conscious.

        • Posted by Not even on

          “Since humans learned that soap and water eradicate diseases a few hundred years ago”

          That never happened…

          It’s true that hygiene makes a significant difference in controlling the spread of disease, but the discovery has not “eradicated” a single disease.

          Are you a nurse? Okay but, maybe not a historian…

  19. Posted by Inuk Person on

    At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries and cities were under lockdown. If we stayed under lockdown for a bit longer, cases would not be so high.
    However, people got so tired of staying home and the economy was bound to crash, so all those times when we had to be under lockdown are such a waste of time! Pathetic, aren’t we?

  20. Posted by Gordon Kukkuvak on

    Wow this is the most outrages comment by education where is the sense in this if they are telling people to stay home if you are sick and isolate but want students to go school where did all your logics go? this is just outrages just like only double vaccinated can get a chance to win a snowmobile in each community what happen to equality people with NTI Enrollment Card this was not part of the agreement what happen to freedom of choice? I am not a anti-vax or pro-vax it is up to the people just like it is up to my family and relatives where are the human rights at this? did they get bribe by the government as well?

  21. Posted by Nunavut Education… on

    Learning packages should come with not only student instructions, but parental instructions to help guide their child along the lessons.

    Parents should be encouraged to call the admin to receive the phone number of the teachers for their children so that they can have any questions answered.

    I know some of y’all teachers are doing daily phone calls to your students and I commend you. But I also know some of you aren’t. I also also know that some of the families can’t receive your calls. Which is why a parental guidance sheet would be very useful for parents frustrated with the at home learning.

    • Posted by Why Parental Help? on

      I assume that parents have the ability to do school work at least at the level of their children…or am I wrong? Maybe not HS AP chemistry or some such, but since that isn’t on the table, why would parents need help?

      • Posted by High school parent on

        I guess you aren’t a parent? I have a high school teen isolating, and having a way to contact a teacher would have been nice. There was no direction given to work to be completed, or even topics my teen should be focusing on at home. I had to dig to find the emails for the IHS to try and contact each subject teacher, which I did on Monday. It is Friday and NOT ONE SINGLE TEACHER RESPONDED.

  22. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Minister Gross seems way into the deep end and can’t swim.

    Guess the backroom deals to get everyone in power may be showing their weaknesses now.

    Was a sub par mayor at home now showing her same weaknesses at press conferences. Her responses on education plans was not impressive at all.

    • Posted by Media Darling on

      The media always liked her, a “woman” bravo! what an accomplishment! An Inuk, oh wow… so brave! Stunning…

      They do this all the time. Create heroics where there are none. Go read the recent story about an Iqaluit councillor (link below). Media loves to catapult people into positions of reverence they haven’t really earned, because they are writers, narrative makers, that’s all they know… they don’t really understand the world, but they do know how to spin a great yarn… so they build one, no matter how well it maps onto reality… or not

      • Posted by Wowzer on

        I can’t believe this savage attack on our local media was allowed up!


  23. Posted by In other news… on

    With everyone working from home at the GN, workplace attendance is only down 20%. Hah hah hah hah
    Candy crush play remaining at status quo

  24. Posted by Edsby on

    Whatever happened to Edsby?

    • Posted by Not Edsby on

      Part of Edsby is sort of like a notice board. You need to put stuff on it.
      Edsby has the built-in capability for students to use it for submitting their completed work, but the GN never used that part of Edsby.
      Most communities in Nunavut do not have the Internet bandwidth needed for Edsby.
      Department of Education needs an Internet server in each community. Each of those servers need to provide access to ONE website, the website where teachers in the community post learn-anywhere assignments and receive completed assignments.
      It would be nice if the Department of Education had the capability to provide and support such a system…

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