Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SETTING OUT THE GAME PLAN – Nicole Morgan, the deputy minister of Education, is seen Wednesday discussing the plans to have the city’s senior secondary school students resume full-time classroom learning starting April 19.

Senior students to be full-time on April 19

It might be almost three weeks later than promised, but high school students in Whitehorse will be heading back to class on April 19.

By Tim Giilck on April 1, 2021

It might be almost three weeks later than promised, but high school students in Whitehorse will be heading back to class on April 19.

The Department of Education announced Wednesday morning during the weekly COVID-19 briefing that “Grades 10 to 12 students at F.H. Collins, Vanier Catholic and Porter Creek secondary schools will be able to return to full-time, in-person classes on April 19.”

Two planning days (April 15-16) have been scheduled to support school staff in adjusting their course plans for the remainder of the school year.

Grades 10 to 12 students will not attend in-class school during these two days and will be expected to be learning from home, doing work assigned by their teachers.

According to a news release that followed the briefing, to support a safe transition, updated health and safety guidelines will allow for relaxing the two-metre physical distancing rule at these three schools, while emphasizing:

• keeping cohorts/groups of students together and avoiding mixing with other groups as much as possible throughout the school day;

• minimizing prolonged face-to-face interactions;

• avoiding physical contact and maximizing physical distancing as much as possible;

• limiting congregation of students and staff during transitions between classes and in common areas; and

• non-medical mask use in common areas.

Nicole Morgan, the deputy minister of Education, said department staff are working with principals and school councils at the three secondary schools to determine how operations should be adjusted to reflect these guidelines.

Once finalized, updated operational plans will be available on each school’s website. Any changes to school operations and programming will be shared with students, families, staff and school councils ahead of April 19.

Morgan refused to directly answer why it’s taken so long to have a plan in place.

Nor did she directly answer whether education officials had to start from scratch with a plan, or are updating an existing template or framework that had been in place since the modified school year started in September 2020.

Morgan wouldn’t directly answer a question as to whether students had a choice to opt out of returning to full-day classes. She said last month’s two-week spring break slowed the process down.

“Although school children and teachers have adapted and made the most out of a difficult year, we know students do better overall in a face-to-face learning environment,” said Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer of health.

“I feel confident that with our current processes and ongoing immunization, we can have our kids return to full-time class safely.

“As always, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity within the territory, and should we face a surge of COVID-19 cases, we will have contingencies in place to ensure continued learning.”

Grades 10 to 12 students at F.H. Collins, Vanier Catholic and Porter Creek secondary schools have been on the half-day, in-person class schedule since the beginning of the school year due to COVID-19 health and safety measures in schools.

Ted Hupé, the president of the Yukon Teachers Association, said Wednesday the extra time was needed to hammer out all of the logistical challenges.

While the teachers welcomed the opportunity to move a little closer to a normal educational situation, many were still questioning the timing – particularly since the April 12 election was called just two days after the announcement on schools was made.

Hupé said many teachers didn’t like the idea that a return to full-day school was being used for political purposes.

Hanley had little new to offer to his part of the briefing.

He had no news on the type of virus variant a Whitehorse resident who travelled internationally brought to the Yukon. Hanley also didn’t indicate when the test results are expected.

That case was announced a week ago. The person was permitted to travel to Whitehorse despite a presumed positive test for a variant because he or she was not considered to be infectious at the time.

Testing is being done at a lab in British Columbia, said spokesperson Pat Living of the Department of Health and Social Services.

She said it takes longer to test for a variant than for the original virus, and there was no timeline for the report to come back.

Both of the cases announced a week ago are doing well, and there appears to be no sign of spread so far.

A third case was announced later Wednesday, but is of little concern to the territory.

A Yukoner who is currently out of the territory has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but will not be returning home soon. It’s counted as a case under health regulations in name only.

Hanley said he might be able to discuss expanding the vaccination process to encompass teenagers in the coming weeks following news the Pfizer vaccine can successfully be used to treat youth as young as 12 years old.

As of Monday, 34,828 doses of the Moderna vaccine had been administered in the Yukon. This number includes 23,674 first doses and 11,154 second doses.

By region, the percentage of residents who have received a first dose is: 69 per cent in north Yukon; 79 per cent in west Yukon; 52 per cent in central Yukon; 58 per cent in southeast Yukon; 68 per cent in Whitehorse.

By region, the percentage of residents who have received a second dose is: 60 per cent in north Yukon; 70 per cent in west Yukon; 41 per cent in central Yukon; 50 per cent in southeast Yukon; 25 per cent in Whitehorse.

Visit Yukon.ca for the latest vaccination data and progress reporting.

There have been five new charges since March 23. All five were issued by Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) officers (four failure to self-isolate charges and one failure to provide declaration charge).

There have been a total of 70 charges and 55 people charged under the CEMA.

Number of total incoming travellers: 75,373.

Resident travellers: 20,249.

B.C. residents: 16,140.

N.W.T. residents: 511.

Other approved jurisdictions: 1,102.

Non-residents staying: 13,915.

Non-residents transiting: 23,359.

Other: 97.

Comments (9)

Up 2 Down 1

Chuck Farley on Apr 7, 2021 at 2:21 pm

Max mack, you may want to rethink that; a 16 year old in Montreal has passed away from COVID 04/07 21 and there is another youth in ICU in SK.

Up 17 Down 4

Joe on Apr 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm

Why are teachers forced to work with kids when govy workers are still sitting at home? Any layoffs yet?

Up 12 Down 10

Max mack on Apr 3, 2021 at 7:08 pm

"the Pfizer vaccine can successfully be used to treat youth as young as 12 years old."

Why would you vaccinate anyone under 18? Look at the stats. There is absolutely no reason to vaccinate kids. Let them mingle. Let them be exposed to the virus naturally. Let them build natural immunity. They are practically immune to any serious effects of "the covid".

Up 25 Down 4

Russ Hobbis on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:52 pm

This is political posturing with 9 weeks left in the school year, that is going to negatively impact Students especially grade 12 students with very little positive benefits. Not any different than the education minister backtracking in students on IEP’s not being able to graduate with a full diploma once the department started to receive push back from parents students and staff and justifiably so. The department of education doesn’t have our children’s best interest even on there radar instead it’s only interested in budget and test scores.

Up 34 Down 11

Yukoner on Apr 2, 2021 at 7:08 am

How is time needed to figure out the "logistical challenges" they are literally going back to how things have been done for years, shouldn't be much of a challenge. The Liberals have really dropped the ball on education related to the pandemic, sad to see them using students learning and future as political fodder.

Up 30 Down 9

What a joke on Apr 1, 2021 at 10:31 pm

What a joke. Hopefully the new government elected will not stick to this. We all want the gr. 10-12 back to school, but doing this for political gain is horrific. You have angered loads of people who wonder why these students weren't permitted back to school in January (BC has so many cases and they've been in school full time this whole year). Doing this now doesn't make sense, except that this government is so arrogant that they left the gr. 10-12 at home for half days on purpose, and then announced very suddenly that they were permitted back to school, hoping for political gain. Kept them at home (without justification) and then make this call and announce your election. Disgusting, lying, deceiving 'liberals.' I think you're actually conservative reds.

Up 34 Down 7

Shattered dreams on Apr 1, 2021 at 10:19 pm

New government will mean new senior management ... right?! Something good must come out of this .... the department of education has FAILED these kids. There will forever be a gap. Kids born 2003-2005 will be a measurable demographic. Our newest systemic problem.

Up 4 Down 29

Wilf Carter on Apr 1, 2021 at 9:32 pm

This person is a great educator and will go over and above to do the best she can for our kids as she did for the kids in high school.

Up 20 Down 4

Vern Schlimbesser on Apr 1, 2021 at 4:49 pm

Yes, face to face is better for learning, much better. That fact is plain.
All of these kids have been out of school for 5 months, and going 1/2 time for 7 more months.
During that time many people have set up alternative arrangements for both online and college alternatives.
With the return to full time most of those kids that were pro-active will unfortunately take yet another disruption (IE having to be two places at once now.)
This is not a complaint, I'm just another of the unintended consequences of this action.
In fact, this decision now (however well hyped) will not achieve anything for these kids in five weeks. There will be a political gain by YTG DOE who will imply; "..yes we listened and this is for you."
So, thanks.
Next time, spend the money on tutors, please!

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