Cree School Board worried about students falling behind amid COVID-19 shutdown

Officials at the Cree School Board say they are concerned about students falling behind as a result of the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extra resources for students, parents just 1 of measures being added

Student's chairs are stacked on top of desks in an empty classroom at a closed elementary School, in Yakima, Wash. (Amanda Ray/Yakima Herald-Republic via The Associated Press)

Officials at the Cree School Board in northern Quebec say they are concerned about students falling behind as a result of the school closures caused by the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. They're making extra resources available to students and parents.

Officials also said Tuesday, they are working on a plan to get targeted help for Grade 10 and 11 students — both during the shutdown and after schools reopen — in an effort to get them ready for ministerial exams set to take place in May and June. 

"The ones that we are more concerned about are the [students] doing the ministry exams," said Abraham Jolly, director general of the Cree School Board.

He encouraged students and parents to use the resources that are being made available on the Cree School Board website.

All schools across the Cree territory are closed until March 30, in step with schools, colleges (Cégeps) and universities across Quebec, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cree territory.

Jolly said the Cree School Board is currently preparing for a two-week closure, but they are aware the school closures could extend longer.

There are more than 5,500 elementary, high school, adult and post-secondary students in the Cree school system as well as more than 1,000 employees including teachers, administration and support staff, some of whom are on leave with pay until March 27.

Essential service daycare a possibility

Abraham Jolly is the director general of the Cree School Board. (Cree School Board)

Cree School Board Chairperson Sarah Pash said Tuesday that school daycare employees might be called upon to offer child care to support essential services like police, fire and garbage services in the Cree communities, as regular community daycares are currently shut down. 

"Decisions are being made right now in order to support essential services [in Cree communities]," Pash said at a special council board meeting Tuesday with officials from the Cree Board of Health and Social Services James Bay and Cree Nation Government.

She added school board daycare staff need to be ready to return to work.

Sarah Pash is the chairperson of the Cree School Board. (Cree School Board)

Pash also said that any staff members who aren't working and choose to leave the communities need to be in touch with their supervisor. 

"[We asked] them to be mindful about their travel plans and ensure that all of their travel itineraries were reported to their supervisor," she said, adding they will be obliged to self-isolate if they travel internationally.

Support to get post-secondary students home

Extra resources have also been put in place to help post-secondary students studying in the South get home if they want to.

"Quite a lot of [our students] have chosen to do so," Pash said.

She also said students who have decided to stay in the South need to be in regular contact with the school board's post-secondary student services.