Yukon parents and students protest the Yukon government’s COVID-19 induced changes to the 2020-2021 school year in front of the Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on July 20. The Opposition Yukon Party is calling for the legislature to be reconvened by Aug. 6 in order to create an all-party select committee to look at the reopening of schools this fall. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon Party calls for all-party committee on school reopening plan

Legislature would need to be reconvened for committee to be created

The Yukon Party is calling for the legislature to be reconvened by Aug. 6.

The move would allow for the creation of an all-party select committee to look at the reopening of schools this fall, the Yukon Party said in a statement, highlighting a July 30 letter that education critic Scott Kent sent to education minister Tracy-Anne McPhee on the matter.

The committee could hear from parents, teachers, First Nations and education and health experts “to examine options for the upcoming school year and provide the government with recommendations,” it argued.

Kent said there are many indicators over the last few weeks as plans have been announced that there have been steps missed in consulting, communicating and implementing the reopening plan for schools in the territory.

“This has created stress and confusion amongst parents and staff, and has led to ongoing protests as well as other forms of public opposition,” he said.

Many on social media have argued against the plans that will see Whitehorse high school students move to half-day classes with a blended learning model. A number of high school students in Whitehorse will be moved around with Grade 8 F.H. Collins Secondary School students set to move to the Wood Street Centre for the year with some protesting the move initially, while students in Wood Street’s experiential programs will move to Porter Creek Secondary School. Protests were held over the changes, but ended following a meeting between protest organizers and McPhee.

Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 in Whitehorse will return to in-person classes full time with a number of guidelines in place for distancing measures. Meanwhile students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in other communities will attend class full-time with the same guidelines in place for distancing. There are also guidelines for school buses.

Kent said the changes are coming at a time the government is operating without the scrutiny that comes with a legislative sitting.

“The future education of our children is so important and if we get this wrong, it could have negative repercussions on students for years to come,” Kent said. “By bringing all parties together in a select committee to hear from parents and educators about what works and doesn’t work about the Liberals’ current plan, the hope is that the government could improve the plan going forward.”

For such a committee to be created, the legislature would have to be reconvened.

Cabinet spokesperson Matthew Cameron confirmed in a July 30 email that McPhee has received Kent’s letter.

“The Department of Education has been working diligently with education partners over the past few months to ensure face-to-face classes will resume for the upcoming school year,” Cameron stated. “We are very pleased that students will return to class next month following the difficult decision to suspend face-to-face classes in April. With classes resuming in three weeks, our focus is supporting schools to develop individual operational plans for students and staff to return to class in a way that protects health and safety.”

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

Yukon Department of Education

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