Crystal Schick/Yukon News A former Yukon College student enters the Whitehorse campus on March 18, only to exit minutes later after finding the bookstore closed as a COVID-19 precaution. College students are being advised not to return to school on March 23 after reading break.

Yukon College, territory’s public schools shut doors amid COVID-19 concerns

Yukon College will be delivering some classes online, while public schools closed until April 15.

Yukon College students will not be returning to the classroom after reading week and students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 in the territory are out of school until April 15.

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley declared a public health emergency March 18 in light of COVID-19 concerns and announced, among other things, that the territory’s public schools will be suspended until April 15.

It made Yukon the last Canadian jurisdiction to announce a school closure due to the global pandemic, though most schools in the territory are on their first week of a two-week spring break. A few community schools have a one-week break set to end March 20 and Kluane Lake School hadn’t been scheduled to start its break until March 23.

On March 16, Yukon College students were advised not to return as they had been scheduled to on March 23.

“Your instructor will be contacting you and make arrangements for you to continue your studies at a distance,” reads the notice, citing COVID-19 concerns.

“We have designated your school chairperson as the main point of contact for information. Chairs will keep all faculty informed. The plans going forward will likely be program specific. Most programs are looking at how to transition the remainder of their courses into alternate formats. Students need to watch their Yukon College email for course-specific instructions.”

In a statement released March 17, officials said for the remaining six weeks of the winter term, it’s expected some classes will finish early and in other cases students will access class material, video lectures and their instructors through online supports.

Classes at the Yukon School of Visual Art in Dawson City are cancelled for the remainder of the year with students expected to complete their final assignments and exams from home.

All students at Yukon College (including those at the school of visual art) will get further details from instructors about individual classes.

“Following the latest update from the Chief Medical Officer … we feel now is the time to implement these measures for the safety of all our students and staff and to proactively help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Yukon,” said Karen Barnes, Yukon College president and vice chancellor.

Any continuing education and Northern Institute of Social Justice classes scheduled between March 18 and April 30 will be rescheduled where possible.

IT support will be available remotely to students via the online helpdesk service, while counselling, library, academic support centre, learning assistance centre, admissions and program advising services will be available by phone, email and video conferencing.

The changes are expected to impact between 1,495 and 2,112 students throughout the territory and come as the college gets set to transition to become Yukon University in May.

Officials said the transition will happen, but it’s not clear if the May 8 and 9 convocation and celebrations will proceed as planned. The college will provide updates when those decisions are made.

Students planning to enroll in fall term courses will have an online registration option expected to be introduced in April.

With files from Julien Gignac

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

See more of the News’ coverage on the Yukon and COVID-19 here.

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