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Fort Resolution's Deninu School 'rising to the occasion' for new year

Fort Resolution's Deninu School has a different look for returning students as the educational facility has been reconfigured in response to the threat of Covid-19.
Principal Lynette De Maries is optimistic that the school is doing as well as can be expected for its students, who number close to 100.
Because of the Deninu School's relatively large size for a small student population, principal Lynette De Maries said it's a bit easier to ensure safe social distancing is in place.
Wikipedia photo
The school's reopening plan, approved by the chief public health officer, was posted on Facebook on Aug. 17. Students, who were due to report for the first day of classes on Friday, will be kept at a safe, physical distance.
De Maries – going into her third year leading the K-to-12 school – said the pandemic has made for an unusual start for the 2020-21 school year.
"Obviously I would have not wanted to have dealt with Covid and it has been obviously quite demanding on all of us, the staff," she said. "But I really think Deninu will be rising to the occasion in a fairly normal manner."
De Maries owes much of her optimism to the luxury of having a large school building that accommodates a fairly small student body. She said she's been able to more easily spread students out and ensure that all classes are running, rather than having students report to school on alternating days, as some communities in the territory are doing.
Students from Deninu School take part in the Orange T-Shirt Day earlier this year.
photo courtesy of Lynette De Maries
Like many educational facilities, Deninu staff and students had been on spring break when the chief public health officer's order brought the school year to a halt in March.

Since that time, staff put in extra effort to ensure that students received assignments online and that one high school student was able to do graduate in June.

"Our teachers worked hard to make sure assignments were given out and that there were safe drop-offs and pickups of materials," De Maries said. "We had teachers online working with students on assignments. We had good support (from community leadership)... but it was a very difficult situation and people were stressed out and worried and upset. However, I think we did a pretty good job of managing it."
The principal said ensuring students have online access hasn't always been easy, but there are signs that this is changing. Deninu was among seven schools in the NWT that received new computers donated by De Beers Group, the company that partners to run the Gahcho Kue Mine.
"That was pretty terrific and great. We do have students who don't have access to technology," De Maries said, adding that the new laptops add assurance that students can be provided the tools they need to learn.
She added that the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission's recent announcement of high-speed bandwidth across the North will make a difference in Fort Resolution, as well.
"Some kids don't have as much access to high bandwidth, which is a greater problem in Fort Resolution but I am glad to see that there is going to be some movement with respect to an expansion because we need that improvement," she said.
There is concern about a second wave of the pandemic in the fall, she admitted, but she remains confident the school is doing as much as possible to prepare.

"Honestly, looking at NWT as a whole compared to the rest of the world, the NWT is probably a superstar with no community spread at all and I think the situation has been handled very well," she said, noting that much attention has been put toward planning and precautions against community spread and another outbreak.

"I don't think there is much else we could do in order to prevent transmission."