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At-home learning will be new experience for everyone, YTA president says

“This is new to everybody right across Canada”
Yukon Teachers Association president Sue Ross poses for a portrait outside Whitehorse Elementary School in Whitehorse on April 14. Ross said that the closure of schools for the remainder of the school year is a learning experience for everyone. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The last few weeks of the school year will be a learning experience for everyone — including the teachers, says the president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association.

In an interview April 14, union president Sue Ross said the Yukon government’s decision to keep public schools closed due to COVID-19 concerns is, in her memory, unprecedented.

“The only possible time I remember school ever being interrupted in the Yukon was I think back in the ‘90s (when) we did a couple of rotating strikes … but that’s the only time I remember, and it wasn’t everybody,” she said.

The Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, declared a public health emergency over COVID-19 on March 18, closing public schools until at least April 15 as part of that.

However, Yukon Education Minister Tracy McPhee announced April 7 that schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year, with teachers to deliver at-home learning beginning April 16 until summer break.

“Well, you know, this is new for all of us — teachers and students, and certainly teachers are parents too so it’s going to be a challenge for all of our members to get through the next month or so,” Ross said.

“… I think that the teachers are grateful for the time that the Department of Education has given us to prepare for different scenarios with our students and also to look at their long-range plans to see, you know, ‘How much have we covered and how much really does need to be covered in these last, say, eight weeks, six weeks of what would have been the rest of school?’”

The time to prepare, though, wasn’t enough to iron out all the kinks, Ross said, adding that she didn’t think that lack of time was on purpose. One of the big concerns teachers are grappling with is the fact that not all families have access to the internet and how to provide adequate learning resources for them, too. Teachers will also have to figure out how to be flexible and meet students’ needs without having the advantage of being able to interact with them in-person.

“This is new to everybody right across Canada and we’re all going to have to try and figure this out as we go, really,” Ross said.

“… I think we all just need to have lots of patience with each other and we’ll all get through this together.”

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