The demolition of Yellowknife’s École JH Sissons will continue as planned, the education minister and YK1 superintendent said this week.
A group of parents had written to the minister, RJ Simpson, asking for the demolition to be postponed so the classroom space could be utilized this fall.
The parents said removing JH Sissons and moving students to other schools while physical distancing requirements were likely to be necessary was the wrong move.
Sissons has long been scheduled for demolition this summer. A new Sissons facility will subsequently be built, to be opened in the fall of 2022.
“This is not the time to cling to plans made before our current reality, out of administrative convenience,” the parents’ letter read.
“It is irresponsible to be tearing down a school at a time when schools are required to reduce class sizes and stagger schedules to maintain physical distancing.”
However, Simpson said in the legislature this week that there would be no delay.
“YK1 has not indicated that they need that space at Sissons,” Simpson said, adding that YK1 board members had “voted unanimously to continue with the demolition … because they feel they can accommodate their students safely, given their existing resources.”
A YK1 spokesperson said no such formal vote had recently taken place, but superintendent Metro Huculak said the school district fully intended for the demolition to go ahead.
“The trustees spoke about it but there are so many things in place now that it would be difficult to stop the project,” Huculak told Cabin Radio on Thursday.
Huculak said William McDonald Middle School – to which most Sissons students are moving while their school is rebuilt – was initially built to accommodate significantly more students than it must house this fall.
Four portable classrooms are on their way to the school, he added.
‘Our hope is some things get relaxed’
Meanwhile, Huculak said he hopes existing pandemic restrictions may be relaxed by the time schools are due to reconvene in the fall.
YK1 has sent a draft plan to the chief public health officer for approval and is consulting with parents about how education will look when class resumes, Huculak said.
“We understand if all the kids can’t be in school, some parents are going to require daycare, and so are some of our teachers with young children. I’m working with the City to see if we can use their facilities during the day,” he said.
“To be blunt, our staff want the kids in school. BC has opened up already. We’ll see where all this goes.
“It’s up to our chief public health officer to have a look at what other provinces are doing and what’s going to work here, but our hope is some things are going to get relaxed and at least the majority of our kids [will be] in school full-time.”