The issue: Back to school
We say: Stay cautiously optimistic

By Tuesday morning, students across the territory will have headed back to classrooms that have sat dormant since March 17.

A healthy dose of caution and quick action from health officials and Nunavummiut alike have kept the territory Covid-free, but it doesn’t ease all the worries of parents as we head into an unprecedented school year.

Grad has been celebrated in remarkable ways in various communities, with students in Baker Lake being recognized by call-ins to local radio from family unable to attend the ceremony, along with the parades that have been such a popular way to mark the occasion.

All of this year’s graduates should be commended for overcoming tremendous adversity in completing their studies remotely.
School will look a little different this year, with greater attention paid to distancing and increased sanitation for students, staff and spaces. Gatherings will be limited and sharing food and drink won’t be allowed, which limits options for events such as school breakfasts or other feasts and celebrations.

Nevertheless, the return to something that feels normal is something many youth and parents are looking forward to.

The plans to keep students, teachers, and communities safe put together by the chief public health officer (CPHO) and the Department of Education are comprehensive, detailing stages numbered from one to four and from green (no cases) to red (community transmission).

All Nunavut communities are currently in stage one.

While in stage one, academics can continue with all students in class full-time, the Department of Education states “unless a community is identified by the CPHO as having an increased risk of Covid-19 transmission, schools will remain open.”

That’s a good thing.

Regular access to school will bring back much needed programming that has been stretched thin during the past few months of pandemic precautions. When schools closed, most breakfast programs also came to a halt. In May, Nunavut News spoke to Jason Rochon, who, along with a team of volunteers, was running Iqaluit’s Breakfast in a Bag program. The team was distributing about 250 food bags per day and as of May 20, about $76,000 had been spent on the breakfast program via private and corporate donations.

Another benefit will be Elders returning to schools, in a safe manner, to share their knowledge and experiences both in classrooms and on the land.
While in school, our youth pick up some of the crucial skills they need to set themselves up for success.

“If I could change one thing about education in Nunavut, it would be to get every single school-aged child in the door on a regular basis. If we could find a way to do that, the picture, I believe, would change dramatically in terms of our success and in terms of our economy, eventually,” said Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main in a March 2020 interview.

That aspiration is renewed now, only with a greater dose of caution.
Parents, students, teachers and government authorities need to remain flexible and supportive to one another in our responses to the evolving situation.

Keep washing your hands – and have a safe and fun school year.

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