Even as students in many regions across Canada resumed learning for the first time in person yesterday from the time the pandemic closed schools, many wearing masks and clutching hand sanitizer, it’s a different story in Nunavut. A month has passed since students in Nunavut, the only region in Canada with zero COVID-19 cases to date, returned to classrooms. David Joanasie, Nunavut’s minister of education, said they had a perfect summer and he was pleased to indicate that Nunavut is yet to report any cases of COVID in the territory.
According to Joanasie, summers in Nunavut experience many more hours of light than the rest of Canada. Thus the back-to-school season is always a little bit of an adjustment. He said that this time, it’s even more different with the pandemic and they had been planning throughout the summer and getting prepared and working with their public health officials at the department of health in the best way and the healthiest and safest way to get their school staff and students back into the classroom.
Nunavut closed their schools early in the pandemic just like other regions in Canada. The territory has remained free of COVID-19 cases despite some false alarms, making back-to-school plans a little less high-stakes than for the rest of the country. Joanasie said in some communities, students have already been in schools since the start of August. Even if there’s no COVID-19 case in Nunavut, it’s not entirely business as usual at schools in the region. Under Stage 1, their back-to-school plan still requires schools to enhanced cleaning, avoid physical contact, limitation of group activities, and prevent students from sharing food or drinks.
Students in Nunavut don’t need to wear masks to school or practice strict physical distancing as long as there remains zero transmission of COVID-19 in the region, even as students in many parts of the country are heading back to school with mandatory masks and splitting their time between remote and in-class learning. Joanasie stated that the relationship between the education department and the health department has been vital in the development and rollout of their back-to-school plan. He assured parents and students that they are doing the very best.
Nunavut’s back-to-school plan stated that every school would physically reopen with in-school learning under Stage 1. Stage 1 meant there were no COVID-19 outbreaks in the neighbouring communities or the surrounding community. If COVID-19 surfaces in a community, the territory has plans in place for how behaviour at school would have to change to be safer. At this time, Nunavut remains COVID-free and children going back to school experience almost ordinary life.