Schools across the Northwest Territories will remain closed until at least January 10, the territorial government confirmed on Thursday.
Yellowknife’s YK1 and YCS school districts told parents Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola had recommended “that schools remain closed for the first week of January” following a fresh increase in Covid-19 cases.
The districts said that recommendation was supported by education minister RJ Simpson and the NWT’s various education bodies had agreed.
In letters to parents, the districts said NWT schools would remain closed from January 4 to January 7 with no online classes or remote learning.
“Schools will open and students will return to in-class learning on Monday, January 10, 2022,” the districts said.
About an hour after the districts issued their letters, the territorial government confirmed in a statement that the delayed reopening would apply across the NWT.
The territory cited “significant travel” over the holidays and an “increased risk of transmission.”
In its letter, Yellowknife Catholic Schools said the week-long delay “will allow any students and families who have travelled back into the NWT to follow the recommendations of the CPHO for 72 hours, follow their self-isolation plans as appropriate, and help keep their communities safe from the potential spread of Covid-19.”
Dr Kandola had already expressed concern that holiday travel would see a significant number of cases imported into the territory, especially as the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the virus responsible for Covid-19 surges in the south.
That concern appeared to be borne out as the territory moved to 87 active cases of Covid-19 on December 29, up from 31 on Christmas Eve, with more than a dozen December flights into the territory so far earmarked as exposure sites.
The Catholic school board said of the closure that trustees “truly understand the frustration this may cause” and had a “commitment to continuing to explore ways to decrease the impact on student learning in future potential closures.”
YK1 told parents: “This proactive approach is intended to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 into the school setting, which could result in an outbreak and longer school closures.
“With an understanding that this has an impact on students and families, this decision was made with the health and safety of our students and their families in mind.”