Whitehorse Daily Star

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BACK TO CLASS – Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee announced Thursday plans to get students in the classroom come the new school year.

Education system adjusts to COVID-19 realities

Some high school students will attend classes part-time next year, while others will attend school in different buildings to enable safe spacing.

By Gabrielle Plonka on July 10, 2020

Some high school students will attend classes part-time next year, while others will attend school in different buildings to enable safe spacing.

“Our goal is to return as many students as possible to class in the Yukon, in their schools, while following all health and safety guidelines,”Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said Thursday afternoon.

McPhee announced plans for the 2020-21 school year during a media briefing. 

Most Yukon students will return to their regular classrooms, full-time.

In rural schools, all students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to schools with a normal schedule. 

In Whitehorse, kindergarten to Grade 9 students will also return to full-time instruction.

Grades 10-12 students in Whitehorse will attend half-day instruction, with the other half-day taking place remotely.

“This arrangement for Grades 10-12 students will be monitored and assessed throughout the first semester,” McPhee said.

Moving Grades 10-12 students to a half-day will ensure that all students have time and support from teachers while limiting crowding in schools, McPhee said. 

Resource programs will be available full-time for students with disabilities and in transition programs.

Students will take the same number of classes that are normally required. There is some flexibility with the remote learning plan, McPhee said. 

“If there are learning issues that require more attention and that set-up won’t be the best learning opportunity for students, they will be able to be in the school full-time and have the support necessary through study halls or additional work,” McPhee said.

Grade 8 classes in Whitehorse will be relocated to enable safe spacing. Classes from F.H. Collins Secondary will be moved to the Wood Street Centre, affecting 135 students.

Wood Street Centre programs will be moved to Porter Creek Secondary.

These are the only groups that are expected to be moved, according to the Education department.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but we made it to ensure in-class learning will be made available to all students,” McPhee said.

School bus services will also be adapted, with fewer students riding each bus. Families who are able to walk, bike or drive to school are encouraged to do so.

Students will be prioritized for bus services according to their eligibility. A detailed operational plan for school buses will be available later this month.

The deadline to sign up for school bus service was June 19, but families can still reach out to sign up their children, McPhee said.

Each school will work from a different operational plan, which will be shared with parents by school principals before the beginning of the school year.

Technology will continue to play a large role in learning whether students are inside or outside the classroom, McPhee said.

The blended learning module will combine face-to-face learning with student-led learning using digital tools. 

The Education department has approximately 5,000 mobile devices that will be redistributed to students in need to complete the technology learning requirements, McPhee said.

There are also plans for virtual study halls to support students without Internet access at home.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer, said Thursday that the risks associated with keeping children out of school are greater than the risk of COVID-19.

Closing schools was necessary at the beginning of the pandemic during “uncertain times,” Hanley said. Now, returning students to schools is critical.

“Kids at risk of experiencing violence at home have not been monitored as they normally would be at school,” Hanley said.

“Keeping children out of the schools for too long can result in long-lasting emotional and mental health effects … many children have been living in isolation, cut off from the essential supports critical to their well-being.”

Hanley said that different plans for different age groups was an important aspect of planning for the upcoming school year.

“I think we can assure parents that together we’ve created the best and safest plan possible,” he said.

Hanley explained that the risk of COVID-19 for children is mild, and they are infrequent carriers of the disease.

Masks will not be required for students nor teachers.

He said his office is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the criteria for closing schools again, but noted the Yukon would need to see “significant” negative impact of students and teachers meeting face-to-face.

While there is a higher risk of COVID-19 importation since the borders opened on July 1, the Yukon is in a good position to remain in containment mode.

Hanley said that watching other jurisdictions reopen schools has been encouraging. If an outbreak does occur in a school, he added, the Yukon is poised to handle it.

“It’s all been reassuring, so as we maintain our capacity to test and our capacity to contact trace, we also remain in a good position to handle outbreaks in any setting, including in schools,” Hanley said.

Comments (17)

Up 3 Down 0

Sarah on Jul 16, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Use that French school to house the Grade 8's for a year and keep the few high school french kids where they are temporarily. There is no reason to double up on moving kids. Or move the 8's to PC. This government has to do everything the hard way. Leave Wood Street as is and figure it out.

Up 1 Down 6

justsayin' on Jul 14, 2020 at 9:54 am

There is alternative learning and YG has to provide it.

Aurora Virtual School

If your child is astute, you can start them on digital college/university courses.

Up 15 Down 11

Liberal Largesse for Society’s Digress on Jul 13, 2020 at 6:44 pm

You people need to quit your whining. Either get out there and protest like your lives matter or shut the truck up. In case you missed it the education system has been deliberately dumbed down and now made absolutely irrelevant right under your own noses. Everybody gets a pass. It’s not a self esteem club or a social club it is supposed to be primarily about learning with the other parts playing a secondary function.

You should be thankful that they are no longer held captive in those liberal indoctrination centres for sanitized, groupthink programming. However, I understand that some people are better suited as sheeple. For these sheeple it may be that being out of school is a bad thing.

Then bring your pickets and placards you societal slackards loafing around in your backyards, let them hear you, let them see you. Peaceful Protest at 2071 - 2nd Avenue. We want school, we want school, so we don’t become another grown-ass Liberal fool!

Up 10 Down 3

Charlie's Aunt on Jul 13, 2020 at 5:49 pm

Seems a bit odd & backwards to me. Our high school students are ones who need the schooling because they have few years left before graduation & elementary school students have more years to catch up. Maybe the work at home parents, who must find it difficult with younger children who are not self reliant, are being catered to.

Up 8 Down 16

Just Sayin' on Jul 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm

What's the big deal; the Yukon has a univeristy, kids can go there.

Up 36 Down 3

DMZ on Jul 12, 2020 at 11:40 am

I don't think it's a great idea to leave teenagers with a lot of time on their hands. Those are important years. It can be disruptive enough moving to different buildings, but it seems like they're letting infrastructure dictate their response. Maybe they should be looking at bringing in trailers or portables, or any underutilized buildings, to create more physical space for students instead of creating space in students' schedules that could impact them in the future.

Up 41 Down 3

Melanie on Jul 12, 2020 at 9:49 am

High school children need full time school more than anyone!!! Why are only high school kids being manipulated this way? This is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Made even more ridiculous when on one hand they say, it will be part time. On the other hand they say, full time for kids who need it.
I say they all need it!!! My high school child is soooo far behind from online teaching.
My grade 5 child is absolutely not falling behind.
High school is just soo much work, IT MUST BE FULL TIME!!!!

Up 21 Down 6

Jason on Jul 11, 2020 at 11:03 pm

@Bobby - service you described is what our people face all the time in the communities. YG does not give a sh*t and Keep wasting our children's time.

Up 36 Down 12

Salt on Jul 11, 2020 at 4:19 pm

This is what you get when bureaucratic government rules over everything unchecked. Complete pigheaded idiocy, unattached to reality.

Up 41 Down 10

Max Mack on Jul 11, 2020 at 8:58 am

Zero COVID infections since May. Zero hospitalizations. Zero critical illnesses. Zero deaths.
Hanley and Silver are saying Phase 3 needs to continue until a vaccine is developed. By their own admission, this could be months to years away.
This is insanity. Time to end the "emergency" and get back to normal. Let the kids go back to school.

Up 25 Down 15

At home in the Yukon on Jul 11, 2020 at 12:13 am

I think the title is in error, it should be covid 19 fears, not realities. THERE IS NO COVID IN THE YUKON. We've had Americans pouring through our territory throughout this entire debacle, and they haven't given us even once case. We are locked down because we fear that we may need to lock down. Even if we got a case or two, it would do much less harm than the lockdown has been doing.

Let's open up already! Let's invite Canada in. Let's invite the sane European, Asian and Australian nations in. Let's just keep a tight reign on those crazy Americans. (Actually, about 51% of them are sane, but they're all diseased.) If we ever get a bit of community spread Covid, then let's shut down for a month or two to deal with it. In the meantime let us give up our paranoia and live.

Up 30 Down 15

FH 8th grade parent on Jul 10, 2020 at 11:18 pm

I am the parent to one of the 8th graders being moved. There was no consultation, discussion or even a heads up that this was even a consideration. My kid is devastated. To a 13 year old this is a huge deal. Imagine all the hype and excitement working up to starting high school - the freedom, the courses, the older kids - my child has been dreaming of ‘The first day’ all year. I fully understand that this is bigger than that .... but unless you live with these kids you can’t understand what a let down the cancellation of the elementary farewell was and now they hear this.
I, for one, would have appreciated a heads up so I could have prepared my child before they heard it on the car radio.

Up 22 Down 4

Diane P on Jul 10, 2020 at 8:53 pm

A lot of Gr 10-12 students that live out of town spend an hour or more a day on the school bus. What about Mon - Tues, kids a-m, Wednesday deep clean. Thurs- Fri, n-z, weekend deep clean makes a lot more sense. Every one gets a couple of full days, there is time to thoroughly sanitize between kid changes, and no one is spending up to an hour on the bus each way for a half day of in school learning.
It doesn’t seem like there was much consultation.

Up 39 Down 1

Yukoner on Jul 10, 2020 at 7:41 pm

Why don't we use that new addition being built right next to FH to increase the physical distancing... And get students back to school full time. Half days will be a disaster, and really won't achieve much in terms distancing of if you have K-9 full time.

Up 45 Down 3

Worried parent of real teenager on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Soo - while I am at work all day my teenagers are expected to:

A) go home at noon, sign on and continue on to a full afternoon of unsupervised ‘learning’
B) stay up after I leave for work and sign on to a full morning unsupervised ‘learning’ ...?

Have you ever met a teenager???
They will be
a) anywhere but on the ‘google classroom’ or
b) asleep

Up 8 Down 28

Matthew on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:24 pm

The Education department has approximately 5,000 mobile devices.
Has anyone done studies on EMR!? (ElectroMagneticRadiation)They need to be done! Funny cause its the EXACT same symptoms as Covid..

Up 49 Down 9

Bobby Service on Jul 10, 2020 at 3:17 pm

Does this woman know what public consultations are? Just a decree from the ivory tower.

High school this spring was an unmitigated disaster. Students just slide through their courses unchecked with ZERO support in many cases from teachers to EAs to technology.

How will busing a full day AND a half day even work? Have they even thought this through?

Yukon students headed to post secondary preCOVID already faced an uphill battle as grade 12 here doesn't prepare them for the rigors of trade schools, colleges or university. The department is continuing to back slide, it's shameful.

Going further back in the non-consulting you can see that a school like FH was patterned after a elementary school and was bursting at the seems the day it was open. Of course there is no room to physically distance.


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