Yellowknife’s three school districts released on Tuesday the general points of their re-opening plans for the 2020-2021 school year, following their approval by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO).
Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1) Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) and Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO) schools will open schools on Monday, Aug. 31.
CSFTNO and YK1 sent out news releases with the general points of their reopening plans. YCS posted its points on the YCS portal.
Yk1 stated that specific plans for each of its schools would be shared with parents on Friday, Aug. 14, CSFTNO will share its plans on Aug. 17 and YCS on Aug. 20.
The guiding priorities as schools prepare to open are the safety of all students and staff while all opportunities for learning are maximized, according to their respective news releases.
New safety measures in schools
A series of safety measures will be introduced when schools reopen.
- Parents will be asked to monitor their children daily for symptoms and to keep them at home if they are sick. A screening process will be developed, and people who are sick will not be allowed in school. If students become sick at school, they will be quickly isolated, parents will be contacted, and the student will be sent home
- Students must wash their hands frequently, including before coming to school. Hand sanitizer will be accessible when hand-washing is not available
- Schools will be disinfected more often, including classrooms and high traffic areas
- Schools might 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 manage flow in hallways and common areas with floor markings or physical barriers
- Students will be asked to label personal items and to not share things, including food
- There will be no assemblies and there will be limitations on gatherings. YCS said it won’t hold large assemblies and that indoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people
- There will be changes to student transportation in accordance with recommendations from the OCPHO. All students must wear a mask on the bus, and there could also be scheduling changes
- Parents, guardians and visitors will have limited access to schools to reduce potential exposure
- Students will be reminded frequently to minimize physical contact with their friends as much as possible
Classrooms and instructional periods will be modified as well. There will be increased spacing between desks and other furniture; physical distancing measures for Grades 7–12 students; possibly more time spent learning outside; non-medical masks will be given for students whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained; face shields for teachers and other school staff; and changes to school schedules and hours of instruction.
Differences between grades
Formats and procedures differ depending on the grade levels for all three school districts.
JK-Grade 6 at YK1 and CSFTNO will hold classes in-person, full-time. There will be no physical distancing inside the classroom “bubble”, but students must keep a physical distance of one to two metres outside of classrooms. Classrooms will be changed to maximize safety by such practices as removing materials that can’t be easily cleaned, like toys and sand and modifications to gathering circles.
For Grades 7-9 there will be full-time, in-person learning as much as possible, and physical distancing of one metre between students and two metres between staff will be maintained. Students will be encouraged to keep personal items with them to limit locker access. There will be no communal food or students spares and breaks, exits and entry times will be staggered. Non-medical masks must be worn when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including in the hallway and on school buses.
For Grades 10-12, full-time and in-person learning will happen as much as possible. Physical distancing will be set at two metres for students and staff. The same rules for Grades 7-9 apply with regards to personal belongings, food, staggered times and use of non-medical masks.
In contrast, YCS plans are more general and apply to different grades, though for JK to Grade 7 the principles are the same as for the other districts.
Grades 8-9 will also have full-time, in-person instruction and one and two metre physical distancing, but students will remain in their classroom “bubbles.”
Grades 10-11 will have blended learning, with half of the day at school and half at home with physical distancing of two metres between all students. Staff must maintain two metres of distance or wear face shields and lockers will not be available for student use.
Grade 12 will have full-day, in-person instruction and the same rules on physical distancing as with Grades 10 and 11 will apply.
All schools are preparing for a transition between in-person, distance and blended learning on very short notice as the pandemic unfolds.
“Staff, students and families should be prepared for learning to change quickly in response to evolving circumstances,” which could include teachers becoming sick, possible or confirmed outbreaks at a school, or if territorial rules on physical distancing become stricter, the districts said.
If there is a Covid outbreak at a school, parents should be prepared for students to be sent home quickly and for contact tracing to be implemented before schools can reopen.
In that event, JK-Grade 6 students will be prioritized for full-time, in-person learning, as well as Grade 12 students so that they’re prepared for pursuing post-secondary opportunities.