The president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association says the imminent return of full-time classes for high schools has been met with mixed reactions from teachers and students.
“Moving to full-time, face-to-face learning is a double-edged sword,” said Ted Hupé. “In retrospect, a lot of people are questioning whether they should have been out at all, and now people are questioning whether we should wait until September.”
Grades 10 to 12 students have been in part-time classes for the entirety of this school year due to spacing concerns. Students have been attending half days, either in the mornings or afternoons.
On March 10, the Liberal government announced that students would be returning to full-time classes next month. The territorial election was called on March 12.
Classes are scheduled to return in mid-April, with only eight weeks remaining in the school year.
Hupé said that education staff are still working on strategies for return, which will require updated operational plans and potentially changes to timetabling to reallocate classrooms.
“The schools will have to reconfigure their classroom dynamics … it’s a fair bit of logistics,” he said.
“From what I’m hearing, changeover to full time won’t happen until mid-April … so that will give teachers and principals time to plan and adjust.”
Hupé said he’s heard from a “small pocket” of students who have settled into half-day routines and may find it challenging to face another mid-year adjustment.
“Students are saying they’ve got a job, they’ve got a routine and it’s working for them, and now that full-time learning is going back into session … it’s kind of messing up their routine,” Hupé said.
He has also heard from some teachers who are immunocompromised and concerned that full-time classes means more school crowding.
“In a school like F.H. (Collins), where it’s pretty small, they’re going to have to relax the distancing rules. That’s a worry, but it’s not a big worry,” he said.
Hupé noted that while there may be relaxed restrictions around distancing, many students were already struggling to follow those guidelines.
“Kids will be closer together, but the debate there is that kids weren’t doing a good job of distancing anyways,” Hupé said.
Teachers and staff will still be required to follow the same distancing rules in the updated operational plans, he added.
Ultimately, most agree that the return to school is a positive step.
“I’m not questioning this — we’ve been advocating for full-time schooling for quite some time,” he said.
“It’s a mixed bag of emotions, you’ve got some teachers who are ecstatic and happy, and we’ve got some teachers who are worried, some kids happy going back and some who aren’t. I don’t see an overall trend, I don’t see a majority thinking one way or the other.”
The Yukon government did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
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