‘Infection control, staggered classes and physical distancing measures will help the learning cycle get going again, while protecting from the spread of COVID-19’
Northwest Territories has released its plan for reopening schools safely this fall, laying out the general measures that parents, guardians, students, staff and communities should expect to see in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 (JK-12) schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Reopening Schools Safely: Planning for the 2020-2021 School Year outlines how schools intend to approach continuing education for all NWT students during the upcoming school year while prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of all students, staff and communities. It includes a spectrum of learning approaches that schools may use throughout the year, depending on the circumstances of the pandemic. It also communicates what education will generally look like by grade level.
“The Government of the Northwest Territories is working diligently with all of our education partners to create a supportive and effective learning environment for students in the 2020-2021 school year and beyond,” said R.J. Simpson, minister of education, culture and employment. “Reopening Schools Safely outlines how we intend to approach continuing education for all NWT students during the 2020-2021 school year while prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of all students, staff and communities.”
All schools are planning to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year with a focus on providing as much in-person education as possible. While details of reopening plans will vary from school to school, the Reopening Schools Safely document provides a high level overview of the general health and safety measures schools will need to take during the upcoming school year to stay aligned with direction from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) on COVID-19.
Increased health and safety measures
The document details health and safety measures that will be implemented, including the following:
- Schools will be disinfected more frequently, including classrooms and high touch areas
- Schools may stagger drop-off and pick-up times and modify lunch, recess and break times to limit gatherings and promote physical distancing
- Schools will have designated entrances and exits, and restrict/manage flow in hallways and common areas with floor markings and/or physical barriers
- Parents, guardians and visitors will have limited access to schools to reduce potential exposure
“I am confident that this plan forms a solid foundation for a safe, gradual return to school for students across our territory,” said Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories. “Infection control, staggered classes and physical distancing measures will help the learning cycle get going again, while protecting from the spread of COVID-19. These measures will only grow in importance as the pandemic continues to unfold across Canada.”
Education bodies are required to prepare reopening plans for each school. These plans are based on specific criteria provided by the OCPHO, and must be reviewed and approved by the OCPHO before schools can reopen.
Schools have submitted their detailed reopening plans and are working to have them approved by the OCPHO as soon as possible. The specific details of these plans will be made available by schools and education bodies once they are reviewed and approved, said the government.
In June, Saskatchewan announced that classes in pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will resume in-classroom learning for the upcoming school year as early as September 1, 2020, according to the government. Yukon also said it is also planning for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students to return to classes in school at the start of the 2020–21 school year.
Yukon announced the suspension of face-to face classes on April 7, 2020 for the remainder of the 2019–20 school year. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia has allowed teachers to return to schools on June 1.