Monday sees hundreds of students and staff return to classrooms in Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ, and Behchokǫ̀ after a two-week suspension imposed by the NWT’s chief public health officer.
A Covid-19 outbreak centred on NJ Macpherson School led Dr Kami Kandola to shut down all schools in the region at the start of May, while also severely limiting youth extra-curricular activities and sending more than 1,000 people connected to the cluster into isolation.
So far, 65 people have become infected with Covid-19 as a result of the outbreak. By Friday, 27 had recovered. Nobody infected as a result of the outbreak had by Friday required hospital treatment.
NJ Macpherson School will not reopen alongside other schools on Monday. Students and staff members have been told they must test negative for Covid-19 before returning, leading the school to postpone reopening until Wednesday in case of a staffing shortage.
Rylund Johnson, the MLA for Yellowknife North, said on Twitter he believed containment of the outbreak had shown that “vaccines seem to really work” and “our community really stepped up.”
However, Johnson said Dr Kandola’s order that people isolating through connection with the cluster could not leave their own properties – an upgrade on the usual, travel-related isolation measures – “was probably overkill.”
He also said the NWT government’s communication related to the outbreak “needs work,” but concluded the NWT was “still likely the best place to be during Covid.”
The NWT government meanwhile launched a social media campaign calling on students not to bully others on their return to school.
“No one asks to get Covid-19. Shaming, blaming, and bullying help no one and it hurts everyone,” the territory’s message read.
“Be kind and supportive to your classmates and neighbours who have had Covid or have been exposed. They’ve gone through a lot.”
Reopened schools must ensure students and staff wear masks at all times, among other newly introduced measures.
In virtually identical letters to parents, the YK1 and YCS school districts each said they wanted to “reassure families that our schools are prepared for students to return to in-person learning.”
The letter continued: “Students can expect to spend more time outdoors until the end of the current school year. All physical education classes will be moving outside indefinitely. Other classes are also encouraged to move outdoors as much as possible.”