Whitehorse Daily Star

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Nicole Morgan

Several scenarios possible for rest of school year

Earlier this month, the Yukon government announced that classrooms will be closed to students until April 15,

By Gabrielle Plonka on March 30, 2020

Earlier this month, the Yukon government announced that classrooms will be closed to students until April 15, and the Department of Education is still working to determine how students will complete their studies this spring.

“There is a variety of different scenarios that are possible, so this is a very important time for school staff to plan and adapt,” Nicole Morgan, the deputy minister of Education, told the Star last Thursday.

The department is awaiting direction from Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer, on how schools should plan to proceed after April 15.

Until then, students are not expected to attend school nor complete lessons at home.

Many Yukon teachers returned to work this morning, and their first task is to determine their students’ progress thus far, having completed three-quarters of the year.

Teachers will gauge what essential learning will be required between April 15 and the end of the school year.

This task for teachers is made more complex by the territory’s recently modernized curriculum, which is based on individual learning programs.

This means the method of continuing education will also be individualized, and depends on teachers developing unique learning plans for each student, according to Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

“We’re asking teachers to make sure they are assessing students where they are, what needs to be done and what the priorities are for each student so they can be properly assessed,” McPhee said.

“It’ll be a great test of this type of learning, and this type of assessment, and we are confident in our teachers.”

There has not yet been a decision on whether students will return to classrooms on April 15.

If classroom closures continue beyond that, teachers will be tasked with implementing distance education for their students.

Morgan said a significant amount of new technology has been implemented in Yukon schools with the new curriculum, including digital textbooks, Google applications and video conferencing.

Teachers will be looking to these tools to support alternate ways of finishing the school year.

All Yukon students will receive a final report card, and Grade 12 students will stay on track to graduate.

The new curriculum also requires frequent meetings between students, parents and teachers, enabling continued open communication.

“It sets us up for this unusual situation,” McPhee said.

The Education department has been working closely with the federal government to determine the next steps forward.

“Every jurisdiction in Canada right now is tackling this question, and awaiting direction from chief medical officers,” Morgan said.

“We do plan for different scenarios and they range from some students coming back to class, or none are and classes remain suspended. I think it’s safe to assume we aren’t going to put 700 students back in F.H. Collins (Secondary School) on April 15 – we can see that writing on the wall.”

Parents have already received initial updates from teachers, and a “frequently asked questions” page has been uploaded to yukon.ca regarding school closures.

Parents should rest assured they will be informed of next steps well before April 15, Morgan said.

The government is also working on how to support students who rely on school meal programs.

Some Yukon schools offer breakfast and lunch for students, and the department is working with communities, First Nations, Food for Learning and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition on how to continue those supports safely.

Schools are still open for teachers who prefer to return to work or need to pick up supplies. Teachers have also been given the option to work from home.

The Yukon Teachers Association previously negotiated a one-to-one cost-sharing program for technology. As a result, many teachers have acquired laptops and tablets that will enable them to work from home, McPhee said. 

Sue Ross, the association’s president, said this morning there has been good communication between teachers and principals so far.

She’s received a wide range of opinions from teachers regarding returning to school.

“Certainly, those with immune deficiencies are more worried than people who are robust and healthy,” Ross said.

“People who have kids at home are concerned about how they’re being managed; it’s a whole gamut of different feelings.”

Ross said teachers are working to gauge anxiety levels, as well as the status of learning, in their students.

“That’s one of the big things: if kids are feeling more anxious, they’re not prepared for learning,” Ross said.

“It’s hard to know what we’ll need if classes are resumed before the end of the year. We want kids and families to know when they come back that schools are safe.”

Comments (13)

Up 1 Down 0

Miles Epanhauser on Apr 5, 2020 at 1:12 pm

School year should start in mid August.
Vic gold please keep operating, placer miners move that earth and make money and stimulate the economy.
Let's balance risk with reward and move towards normality while protecting the vulnerable.

Up 0 Down 1

Klaus G. on Apr 3, 2020 at 7:51 pm

@Miles - Und you vill enjoy yourselves.

Up 10 Down 3

Jonathan Colby on Apr 3, 2020 at 10:12 am

If you think that more deaths are preferable to a slowdown in economic and education efforts, I encourage you to name the people that you are close to, that you would be willing to feed into that grinder.

Put a face to the people that could die because of that sort of irresponsible Behavior.


Up 2 Down 16

Miles Epanhauser on Apr 2, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Get them back to school as soon as possible and people need to get back to work as well.

Up 29 Down 0

Flerb Berbenstein on Apr 1, 2020 at 1:23 pm

For crying out loud. Ontario has already called it. They are not going back, Yukon Education is probably waiting to see what BC does just like they do with everything else.

This nonsense of expecting teachers to be offering "unique learning plans for each student" especially under these circumstances demonstrates just how out of touch the upper administration of Yukon Education has gotten with the realities of teaching.

Up 19 Down 1

Not IEPS on Mar 31, 2020 at 9:02 pm

Not all of the students are on IEP's. This is false. It takes a tremendous amount of documentation and evidence to get an Individual Education Plan. Most students are on a plan for the masses, by grade level. Saying all students are on IEPs is absolutely false.

Up 22 Down 2

FH Parent 2 on Mar 31, 2020 at 9:04 am

I think what Ms. Morgan was referring to was a regular progress update on the course which should have been done before the break, and was for our children. Teachers just back to work and I trust we will have communication when a clear picture emerges. This is unprecedented ground we are on and we need to extend a bit of trust to one another and some patience. Ensuring we don't have transmission at school is a key piece of the strategy for "flattening the curve" I hope they don't rush it!

Up 38 Down 1

From Homeschool on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:08 am

Oh just call it already, at least for elementary. Half the families won't let their children back anyway so then you'll have a split system which will be even harder to deal with. Lots of teachers too will simply refuse to go back. Nobody believes achools are going back April 15.

As for suddenly cramming kids back together into buses?
Better just to get on with it best you can electronic style. Every class has 1-2 teachers, with assistants. Send out some lesson plans and activities, same as you would have written for class anyway. 15 minutes with each student/family per day on phone or video to check in and advise.

You really don't have to overthink this and spend forever assessing and reviewing. Just do your best, kids will do fine, their lives will move on.

Up 21 Down 0

Seriously? on Mar 31, 2020 at 7:25 am

That decision should be a no-brainer. I get the issues involved regarding child care/daycare, but if the schools become the epicenter of spreading the virus (which is foreseeable), we will have way bigger long-term problems. Aside from it being virtually impossible to practice proper, supervised social distancing, don't forget that the people a lot of parents rely on most for child care are among the most vulnerable if they get sick.

Up 22 Down 4

PCSS Student on Mar 30, 2020 at 9:32 pm

Let’s be honest, no students are going back to school. There’s only five now and there’s soon to be thousands of cases here. No instructions from anyone, some teachers have contacted parents, some are dead quiet. Sucks that I need to hunt for answers all the time. This created so much anxiety for graduates. A lot of unanswered questions.

Up 26 Down 7

Lost In the Yukon on Mar 30, 2020 at 6:02 pm

You figure a former gym teacher now making over $200,000 year would be able to answer a direct question from a radio interviewer ... what an embarrassment. Does the term ... in it for the money or over your head apply here?

Up 9 Down 8

JC on Mar 30, 2020 at 5:36 pm

What about school bus drivers? Will they be paid for this extra time off? Are there conditions in place for them when they come back? After all, many of the drivers are at or past the retirement age. Some with certain medical problems. Or will they be just cut loose.

Up 37 Down 14

FH Parent on Mar 30, 2020 at 3:51 pm

"Parents have already received initial updates from teachers" - N Morgan


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