Minister of Education Tracy McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at the Yukon government’s COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on June 9. Initial plans for the return to classrooms this fall were announced for the territory’s students. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon classrooms to be open again for the 2020-2021 school year

Students to go back to school in August

Classes are expected to physically be back in session sometime this August for the 2020-2021 school year.

Minister of Education Tracy McPhee and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gave some of the framework for the upcoming school year during the June 9 COVID-19 update.

McPhee said the territory is gearing up to have Kindergarten to Grade 12 students get back into classrooms. The Yukon government will be working with principals and staff as well as looking at how other jurisdictions are handling a return to school.

“We are learning from their experiences and adapting,” McPhee said.

Each school in the territory will be required to have an operational plan in place for the next school year.

McPhee encouraged parents to register their kids for the school bus. Registration forms are available online at www.yukon.ca/bus.

Hanley said that education is more than just about learning, as there is a social connection to it. The closure of schools has left an impact that could last longer than the virus itself, he said. Kids have experienced boredom, isolation and may have been exposed to domestic violence while out of school.

He explained that there needed to be rapid action to prevent a “COVID onslaught” at the beginning of the pandemic but now the government must pull back.

The school planning will be important in calculating the risk of having the schools open again versus keeping kids out of school.

“Schools are a safe space for kids,” Hanley said.

He said he was confident that schools can adapt to the new reality. He said hand washing and sanitization should have an effect on mitigating COVID risk.

There will be more details released in the future regarding what the new school day could look like. Hanley said there could be shorter days and smaller classes but gave no further details.

He explained that COVID-19 could be passed on in a school environment but the chance is low. He pointed out that children are more likely to be exposed to the virus at home.

He added that children typically get milder cases of the virus and kids play a minor role in spreading it.

Hanley provided some statistics for COVID-19 and children. There have been no COVID-19 related deaths for people under age 19 in Canada, with the same age group representing seven per cent of all cases of the virus and one per cent of hospitalizations.

Any change in plans would depend on the importation risk from outside of the territory. He said more information would be released as talks continue over the summer.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

CoronavirusYukon Department of Education

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