Schools to open on case-by-case basis, says Nunavut education minister

Some can open Jan. 24 at the earliest

Education Minister Pamela Gross, pictured here in a file photo, said schools will start to open on a case-by-case basis, beginning Jan. 24. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Schools across Nunavut will begin opening up on a case-by-case basis beginning on Jan. 24, depending on each community’s COVID-19 status, says Education Minister Pamela Gross.

“It’s different based on [each community’s] situation — if there’s COVID-19 in the community or not,” Gross said during a territorial government news conference on Tuesday.

As of now, teachers can return to schools on Jan. 17 and students will learn remotely until they return to school, either through the online learning platform, Edsby, or through take-home learning packages.

Exact dates for returns to the classroom will be decided later in the week by chief public health officer Michael Patterson.

To support remote learning, the Education Department has distributed digital devices, such as laptops, in every community, said Gross.

The department has 856 of these devices in the Kitikmeot region, 1,761 in the Kivalliq and 2,672 in the Qikiqtaaluk. Gross said although the devices are meant for high school students and teachers, the department is leaving it up to the communities to decide where they go.

“Schools have the flexibility to identify students or groups where there’s a need and distribute accordingly,” she said.

Each school will follow the government’s plan set out at the beginning of the school year and additional health and safety guidelines provided by the Education Department, Gross said, adding that schools have been given medical-grade masks for adults and children.

There are 192 cases of COVID-19 in 14 Nunavut communities, with one presumptive case in Taloyoak announced Tuesday. Although case counts are decreasing in recent days, Patterson says that can partially be attributed to lack of testing.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been concerns about how limited access to food and unsafe home lives can affect a student’s ability to learn.

Gross said the government understands the impact school closures can have on students’ lives and learning experience.

She mentioned how students won’t have access to food programs during online learning, but the department will work with each school to restart those programs when schools open up.

“We must balance the risk of transmission of COVID-19 with the harms of extended school closures,” she said.

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Melissa on

    This new Education Minister clearly exhibits the same as the last. The inability to effectively answer direct questions. The children and the Education system as a whole deserves better. It’s turning into a real joke. Can’t blame people to be frustrated. Get a real clue!

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    • Posted by no answer for me on

      The minister whom is our MLA can not even answer emails either. What is the deal there?

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      • Posted by Northern Inuit on

        You should have voted for Peter at election time last year….

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        • Posted by Northern Inuit on

          FYI, this was not posted by me.

          I never have, nor ever will tell anyone who to vote for.

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  2. Posted by Banff on

    Still no plan here and how will they keep kids safe. Any help filters? What about learning you can not mark learning packages that the students haven’t had a lesson on or support with it makes no sense. Is it hard to state the Plan any details? Stop talking about documents and tell us the plan doesn’t seem like this minister knows anything??

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  3. Posted by terrible! on

    She was terrible at the press conference! a whole lot of talking with no substance. Why cant teachers start this week to prep? surely they can go to the school in rotation if GN is so concerned about transmission. Online learning should have started on Jan 5 as anticipated or Jan 10 the very latest. GN and Dept of Education kept touting they were prepared for this, NO! they are not prepared for anything. At least have the vaccinated students in middle school and high school to start in person schooling as most argument were about kids under 11 who are not fully vaccinated yet. These devices means nothing! Under Joanasie, he said there were devices too, never seen them. Invest in internet stick for zoom calls for remote learning. The current remote learning where learning packages are dumped to students without any instructions are also failing the students and Edsby is a JOKE!

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  4. Posted by Fred Knot on

    The framing of the declining case count annoys me to no end. For example, consider the following:

    “There are 192 cases of COVID-19 in 14 Nunavut communities… Although case counts are decreasing in recent days, Patterson says that can partially be attributed to lack of testing.”

    There is something far too confident and definitive in tell us “there are 192 cases” when we all know there are much more, or at the very least the lack of testing means no definitive statements can seriously be made… yet we will make them anyway. It is almost like there is contempt for honesty here, knowing that what is said will be passively accepted, regardless.

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    • Posted by Snappy 20 on

      I completely agree. Of course the number of cases is going down. They’re not testing anymore. I don’t understand why they’re continuing with this charade of announcing a number that everyone knows isn’t accurate. What happens when they get to zero? How can we know the level of safety in living our lives, going to school or shopping if we have no idea how many people in our community actually have Covid?

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      • Posted by Fred Knot on

        Exactly, for one we need a better language to describe what is actually happening, regardless if it captures the exact case count. The paradigm has changed and we need to address it in ways that continue to make sense. Telling us the case count is going down when we all know, when the person writing knows, that they don’t actually know anything is bound to erode the legitimacy of whatever messaging follows. At best it is a labyrinth of confusion, at worst a bukkake of lies.

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    • Posted by Not only that on

      Yes the people in the communities hear of much higher numbers than what are published.
      Meanwhile we are still waiting for the rapid tests to be handed out and I thought the Feds were also providing better masks. Can’t find them locally.

      It is also disturbing to hear the minister of Education say the Dept. Of Health is calling the shots in all matters Covid. I didnt vote for them. Or is it true the the GN bureaucrats really do run NUnavut?

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      • Posted by iWonder on

        Do you think the Department of Education should be calling the shots as to how the pandemic is handled? It seems obvious that Health should take the lead. I’d be interested to hear what arrangements you believe would be more appropriate. Fill us in?

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        • Posted by Not only that on

          What I was trying to say was the elected government has a role to play in the decision making during this pandemic. Dept. of Health is solely concerned about Health, as it should be. But our elected body of MLA’s are there to manage the entire system and it is their responsibility to govern accordingly. I don’t think that Dept. of Health takes that in to consideration and that is why we still have 14 day isolations, total shut downs of the school system and near total shut down of the GN offices. Don’t misunderstand me, as I am not promoting to throw the doors wide open so to speak. There is a much greater role that the Government needs to fill to manage this Territory and I just see deference to Dept of Health and that is not good enough. The Government has to start doing their job to address the many issues that we are all aware of.

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          • Posted by iWonder on

            Good question. It’s a balancing act at some level, no doubt. Still, it’s hard to see where sound policy from a scientific / data informed (not saying we are always doing this) perspective would ever defer to a political opinion though.

            A cautionary tale:

            In 1720 a ship called ‘Grand Saint Antoine’ sailed into Marseille, France, carrying fabrics from Greece and Libya. It also carried the Bubonic plague, which was active in its previous ports of call. At the time ships were mandated to undergo a quarantine to prevent the import of disease in the city. This particular ship had already lost 10 people to disease during its voyage, so it was highly suspicious. Nonetheless, local merchants pressured the local board of health to allow the fabrics into the city. The board relented and after a shortened period of quarantine allowed the fabrics and crew in. 60,000 out of 100,000 of the city’s residents perished. A further 50,000 north of the city eventually succumbed to the disease as well.

            See, Pandemics and Society, Frank Snowden (2019); page 72

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  5. Posted by Need more info on

    The Minister failed entirely to provide any useful information, particularly the criteria on which decisions to open schools for in-person learning will be made. We need real answers, now.

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  6. Posted by Former teacher on

    This is just another thing that the education department has failed to do. Most places use Microsoft teams, why waste money on a program that is just Facebook.

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    • Posted by Teams on

      I believe Microsoft Teams in included with Microsoft Office 365, which includes essential services for businesses, schools, and governments such as email, Word, and Excel.

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  7. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    My Department …..my department…..my department….

    How many times did Ms Gross say this? The GN is a democracy still right?

    No real plan put forth by my department, I mean our Department of Education. We have Children waiting to return to school, Elementary, High School and Arctic College.

    Which also brings up the question, why didn’t Arctic College Students receive funding during Christmas Holidays? You see many students surprised they did not receive any funding at all during the break. Hard enough for them not to be at home during the holiday but yo leave them high and dry to look to family to buy food? Weak and overlooked, but hey maybe Department of Family Services could help too right

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    • Posted by Region by Region on

      ALTS students in Kitikmeot received their funding before the holidays.

  8. Posted by Truestory on

    Seems like all politicians, and educators need some educatin’.

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