Three new school buses will be introduced in the new year.
On Jan. 4 the new vehicles, plus a review of the current system, will allow for the school system to accommodate around 350 students.
Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee made the announcement alongside the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, on Dec. 17.
The Liberals have faced criticism in the house around the bussing issue, after parents complained that they were no longer eligible during the COVID-19 year because of less space on buses.
On Dec. 17 McPhee once again emphasized that, since the school year began, all students technically eligible for a bus, based on distance, were accommodated from the beginning.
Families will be notified by email with their bus number by Dec. 23 if they are being accommodated with the changes or if there are any changes to their existing bus number. All families are being encouraged to visit Yukon.ca to check bus schedules and routes.
Hanley said the current rules and safety guidelines were re-examined to see if more students could be accommodated.
This has resulted in new rules – including that all students age five and older wear a non-medical mask while on board. The previous guidelines suggested masks for age 10 and older.
“We’ve ensured that neither the students nor the drivers safety is compromised,” Hanley said, adding that monitoring for symptoms remains crucial.
Cases slow down, but holiday caution urged
As the territory emerges with a slowdown from the recent rapid cases of COVID-19, Hanley urged holiday caution during a weekly update.
“As one community, we have stayed strong, we have persevered and we can see a finish line in sight. And without your determination and diligence, we could be in a very different situation than we find ourselves in now,” said Hanley, thanking Yukoners for their patience.
Hanley addressed the anxiety of the recent increase in cases after a relatively quiet summer, sharing some detailed statistics about the Yukon’s overall cases.
After peaking at 59 total cases and a situation on Nov. 17 where the territory had 24 active cases at one time, almost everyone has now recovered from that initial wave.
The territory has only had one new case in the past week.
He said the patterns — a majority of cases spread within the territory — illustrate how important bubbles and caution remain, even as the holidays approach.
Hanley emphasized “bubble fidelity” over the holidays, and said the next few weeks are not the time to start expanding or changing the recommended social bubble of 10 to 15 people, despite the temptation of holiday gatherings.
“The tighter your bubble, the less chance for COVID to spread,” he said.
Asked about how the territory will phase out public health measures as the vaccine is introduced, Hanley said there are still many unknowns that will play out in the next few months.
Addressing the legislature later in the afternoon, he also cautioned that changes won’t be immediate.
“I think that the next few months are going to be both exciting and challenging. I think that the challenge will be to — as I was saying in my media update — maintain our vigilance with regard to COVID risk while we await that relief of the vaccine — but that the relief is not an instant relief. It is a relief that is going to potentially take months,” he said.
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