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Staffing shortages, COVID-19 concern YTA president ahead of back to school

Everyone is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, said YTA president Ted Hupé
Ted Hupé, president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association, said COVID-19 and teacher shortages are areas of concern ahead of 2021-22 school year. (Submitted/Yukon Teachers’ Association)

The outfits are looking fresh and the bagged lunches will soon be packed. Yukon students will be heading back to school on Aug. 23. Teachers got back to their classrooms on Aug. 19.

Students will be returning to school full-time for 2021-22.

In the 2020-21 school year, Grades 10-12 split classroom time between in-person and virtual learning. The lower grades attended school full-time.

Ted Hupé, president of the Yukon Teachers Association, said the normalcy of the upcoming school year will depend on the Delta variant of COVID-19.

“I think everyone is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” said Hupé. “The department (of education) has pretty much left most of the general rules or restrictions and COVID guidelines in place from last year.”

Because the rules are the same as last year, Hupé said he hasn’t received messages of concern from parents.

“People are expecting possible outbreaks but the department is saying they’re going to respond in a flexible manner, which seems to be the methodology that most jurisdictions are adopting,” said Hupé.

If there is an outbreak in a classroom or a school, Hupé said the department will respond in “an immediate manner rather than a wholesale matter, like we did last year.”

Hupé said schools want to adapt to possible outbreaks and try to “preserve and provide” face-to-face learning.

“We’ve seen the repercussions of closing down schools and going virtual,” said Hupé. “Not every family or household is set up for virtual learning. Not every child is in a place where they can learn effectively in a virtual setting.”

Students will still be wearing masks in common areas, but they won’t need to in classrooms. All teachers, said Hupé, will be wearing masks in common areas and the classroom when they can’t maintain social distance.

Staffing the schools is an area Hupé said he has some concerns. There were 12 new principals hired this year and three schools, F.H. Collins, Old Crow and Kluane Lake appointed acting principals just to fill in until they can hire someone full-time.

There are still several teaching positions that need to be filled, said Hupé, and there is a lack of substitute teachers.

“We had so many schools that were short-staffed all throughout the year because of a lack of TOCs (teachers on call),” said Hupé. “That is another grave concern of mine going into this year.”

“If we don’t have a good cadre of TOCs this coming school year, we’re going to see a continuation of the problems we had last year.”

Despite some obvious challenges facing the new year, Hupé said he’s looking forward to the school year.

“I’m looking forward to working with the department,” said Hupé. “I want to see more stability in terms of hiring, I’d like to see more stability in terms of TOCs. I don’t want our students to individually be left behind or as a system left behind.”

“I think it’s important for all of us to pull together and try to make this year flow better than last year.”

Hupé said last year everyone coped well, but they don’t want to cope again.

“We want to thrive,” said Hupé.

Contact John Tonin at