With the question of whether schools would reopen for the remaining few weeks of the year or not now thoroughly answered, staff at Beaufort Delta Education Council (BDEC) are looking towards how to organize a safe re-launch of the education program in the fall.

At the same time, with the current remote-education system functioning, principals at individual schools around the Beaufort Delta are investigating if a potential outdoor summer graduation ceremony can be worked into the allowance for small outdoor gatherings up to 25 people.

“I know the principal of East Three and other schools are now looking at ways in which they can celebrate graduation in an outside way,” said BDEC superintendent Frank Galway. “In our smaller communities where there’s less graduates, they’re looking at ways they can celebrate those students who are graduating, whether it’s a gathering of just their families or some way of social distancing.

“Every District Education Authorities (DEA) and school administration are looking at how they might celebrate this year’s graduates. We’re trying to make sure what we come up with, we’re able to actually accomplish in June.”

Noting that a significant number of the region’s teachers were still stranded outside of the Northwest Territories, Galway said there was a consensus among DEAs and Councils to keep things the way they were for the time being.

Galway added the schools were reporting a consistent recovery of first packages and the second wave of student packages were already out in circulation, with somewhere between 60 to 65 per cent take up of the packages.

Provisions are also being put in place for students who are unable to graduate due to the current circumstances.

“If a student doesn’t make it in a particular course, there’s a course recovery process which is part and parcel with what’s been worked on in the last couple of weeks,” said Galway. “There’s also students who decided they did not want to participate in online learning this year and will wait for next year to graduate. There’s also those who are ready to graduate because they already had a lot of the core things done, so this last semester was more of the non-core areas, so we’ve been able to sometimes waive or give a mark for that.”

Instead of rocking the boat, Galway said the board would focus on how to best implement the conditions schools are able to open under and be ready for the fall.

On top of having to accommodate teachers who will have to self-isolate for two weeks before they can begin work, getting the schools ready in itself is a daunting task. These requirements include establishing lanes for physical distancing and dramatically increasing the frequency of both cleaning and sterilization of the school’s facilities.

“The reality is operationally, we need to put together a plan that has to go forward to Public Health in order to be approved before we can re-open,” he said. “That requires us to have a risk-assessment done as well.

“We don’t even have the markers to put down yet. We need masks for anyone who may very likely need one. So with the weeks we’ve got left, we’re going to use it to get the procurement in place, get decals down on the floor, those kind of things we want to have well established before we bring students back in.”

Eric Bowling

Breaking News Reporter and Digital Editor for NNSL, Eric operates out of Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta. He's four years into his Northern adventure and is eager to learn more about life in the Arctic Circle....

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