Whitehorse Daily Star

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Nicole Morgan

Yukon schools can operate safely: DM

The deputy minister of Education is confident officials have the right safety strategy in place to ensure they can keep the schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Chuck Tobin on January 10, 2022

The deputy minister of Education is confident officials have the right safety strategy in place to ensure they can keep the schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nicole Morgan pointed out during a press conference Friday the department is entering its third year of the pandemic and has experience dealing with COVID-19 and methods to keep students and staff safe.

Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health who also took part in the news conference, has provided guidance to help keep the schools open, she said.

The Education department, she added, is working with the First Nation governments.

Morgan said it’s important students receive the support they need, and ensuring access to in-class learning is among the primary supports the department can provide.

“Our priority we have is that in-class learning continues,” she said.

“We are working to make sure students have access to the supports they need to continue learning.”

“We will keep as many students in schools as safely possible, based on recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) and advice of the Yukon Communicable Disease Control Center (YCDC),” says an 11-page letter sent from the department to parents.

“Should there be an increased risk of transmission, increased cases or a community outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Yukon schools will adapt operations as necessary, based on the following contingency scenarios and the specific context of the school and community.”

Morgan said there is always the option of returning a school to remote learning, but remote learning is less than ideal.

These are challenging times, and the new Omicron variant has added a new dimension to the challenge, she said.

Nonetheless, said Morgan, they remain confident they can deliver in-class learning safely.

She said the department has ensured the ventilation systems and their filters are being maintained to provide maximum benefit.

Where there is a request to close a school, the department will have to work closely wth the school to understand why, she said.

“Is there an operational need for the school to be closed?” she said. “It is really important to identify why the school is shifting to remote learning.

“It will help us to identify how long we will be moving to remote learning.”

Morgan said they’ve also been in discussions with teachers on call to understand some of their concerns.

The department had to bring on 13 additional teaching staff last month, she said.

Morgan said the COVID-19 landscape is changing very quickly.

The department used rapid testing in November in some communities to identify as many cases as it could, she said.

Morgan said the Yukon’s relatively small size presents a benefit in that it can be very nimble in responding to situations.

It is important the Department of Education remain nimble, and is prepared to provide school closures, she said.

Morgan said they did use remote learning in some cases following a request from the Ross River School.

The department agreed, and used what it’s learned over the course of the pandemic to address Ross River’s concern, she said.

Elliott said she is confident in-class learning can be done safely, but emphasized there are the necessary tools in place to address an outbreak if one occurs.

The standard protocols – wearing masks, washing hands, staying home when you feel unwell or are running a fever – remain among the primary tools to combat COVID, she said.

If Yukoners feel unwell, she said, they need to stay home, and if symptoms worsen, they should then get tested.

Morgan said she is confident in-class learning can be done safely because the operational plans for each school are already in place to keep staff and students safe.

As of Friday, there were 329 active COVID cases and 41 new cases.

Records show 1,793 cases have recovered.

Weekend data were unavailable from the government before press time this afternoon.

Comments (13)

Up 7 Down 0

Community Gal on Jan 14, 2022 at 11:08 am

Schools function best during a pandemic when there are enough substitute teachers and EAs to cover for absences. Problem is, subs are scheduled for a 7 hour shift but only paid for 5 hours. They receive no benefits, no holiday pay, no sick days and no pay for any statutory holidays. They are not advised if there was a Covid outbreak in a school they worked at, even if it was a class in which they taught. Guess the answer is to hire TOCs that can’t count to 7.

Up 6 Down 1

Carnival Tours Governance on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:44 pm

@ YG - There is just so much ineptitude and corruption within the government that it is a wonder the whole system does not collapse in on itself… But for the party faithful…

Up 15 Down 0

YG - where wrongdoing is rewarded on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:48 am

@carnival tours and @not trustworthy - YG keeps those who do not act in the best interests of young people and fires those who speak the truth. The group home scandal is another example of this - it is beyond disgusting that this DM is still employed in Education. FYI the Director at Family and Children Services who was found to have committed wrong doing, was spared any consequences has left or is leaving soon. In her short reign (less than five years) she got rid of anyone who dared to speak out, challenge her and the former DM who got to resign for her wrongdoing. YG no integrity, no transparency.

Up 14 Down 2

Stunned Bunny on Jan 12, 2022 at 4:12 pm

Nice doublespeak there Nicole Morgan. Schools “can” operate safely… The concern is, will they?

I “can” pretend I am a Unicorn and demand that everyone refer to me as a Unicorn but that does not mean I am a Unicorn.

I suppose that is how the Hidden Valley School sex-crime scandal came to be… We “can” let the public know or we “can”
keep it on the down low. Hidden Valley School Counsel meetings were then run with a hidden agenda!

FFS! Why is she still talking and why is she still employed?

Up 21 Down 2

Carnival Tours Governance on Jan 11, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Dear Groucho - The only people in YG that will be held accountable are the competent and qualified staff that YG wants to punish for being right when it contradicts the politicization process.

So, come on man! It’s not like there is no accountability in YG - It just requires a target, a scapegoat…

Up 22 Down 0

iBrian on Jan 11, 2022 at 10:29 am

Where’s the Minister?

Up 16 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jan 11, 2022 at 8:39 am

So what happens if they are wrong? As we have not seen any accountability so far in this pandemic, I doubt there will be any going forward.

Up 1 Down 13

Dave on Jan 11, 2022 at 2:30 am

Since the YTA added professionals to their title, their work has been recognized world wide. The deputy is really earning her keep too.

Up 30 Down 4

Not trustworthy on Jan 10, 2022 at 6:23 pm

Remember this is the same DM who was part of the Hidden Valley sexual abuse scandal - Trust? Transparent? Should have a job in education? The answer to all three - NO. The safety, health and well being of our children should not be in the hands of this DM or this government - period.

Up 22 Down 5

Still fed up ! on Jan 10, 2022 at 5:37 pm

I certainly agree with Daniel. You are so right in all of this. This government has definitely gone down hill! Stop all the fear mongering and pull back your pointless restrictions.... especially the unbelievable mandate that is ruining lives... literally! How do you feel about that YG ? And find a replacement for your current CMOH..... she is a puppet. OH, is that what I should say Sandy.......OK

Up 27 Down 5

Norm on Jan 10, 2022 at 4:44 pm

Why does this person still have her job? Oh ya, friends with Sandy. Stubborn Sandy can't admit he made a mistake- Hidden Valley, McPhee was voted out by majority of Yukoners and this person should have got the boot along with McPhee but… Sandy says...

Up 22 Down 7

Daniel on Jan 10, 2022 at 3:51 pm

As reported in this post, Sandy sounds flippant, but he’s not wrong. At -35 or colder it’s up to parents to decide if the kids go to school. If the buses can’t run, that’s another factor for those more than walking distance away. COVID concerns add another layer of concern. By Sunday it was so cold here (-55 when wind chill added) that St. Paul’s Church cancelled its service, something we almost never do.

Up 102 Down 6

faithless on Jan 10, 2022 at 3:27 pm

I had a pretty decent amount of faith in the decision making of the CMOH, Education, and YG, until last week. Last Wednesday’s update was beyond absurd, condescending, contradictory to national recommendations, insulting and not remotely transparent.

Just ‘assume’ you have Covid and self isolate (for how many days, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10 14, I’m no longer sure I lost track)?! But don’t test? THAT’S the plan for us?!? And you cannot even admit that the reason for not testing is because you have no capacity to handle the number of people coming your way, so you just tell them to assume, and turn them away.

Then you FINALLY offer rapid testing (to some), but none of these stats will ever be recorded. So now, all the case counts are entirely meaningless. But you base decisions on them? And again, you refuse to provide any relevant or honest stats on hospitalizations and their severity, or school case counts.

And ‘low’ transmission in schools hey? Are you kidding? How do you even know this now that you won’t test? Keep the schools open at all costs. And then send notices out late at night that SOME kids will have to ‘go online’ the following morning, in some classes, in some schools. But you know, not due to Covid or anything.

When asked about Dawson absences Sandy’s reply was simply ‘well, it’s cold out.’ When asked about what the Yukon is doing to support those with long Covid the CMOH says ‘we’re gathering data’? How pray tell do you gather data when you’re no longer testing some people and tracking their cases?

Did either of you hear yourselves in the two hours you spoke AT the public?
PLEASE people, remember all of this come election time. This government is an embarrassment.

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