Inuvik schools to reopen Monday

COVID-19 testing is underway at East Three Secondary School in Inuvik, N.W.T., as students, parents and officials prepare for the reopening of the town’s two schools after a two-week shutdown.

Students need a negative COVID-19 test result to return to East Three schools

A socially distant graduation ceremony at East Three Secondary School in Inuvik, N.W.T. in June 2021. The East Three Secondary and Elementary schools are set to reopen for in-person learning Monday. Students must test negative for COVID-19 before they can return to class. (Submitted by Kristian Binder)

Inuvik's East Three Elementary and Secondary schools will reopen to in-person learning on Monday, but before students and staff at both schools are allowed back, they must test negative for COVID-19.

The schools have been closed since Nov. 7, following a COVID-19 outbreak at the elementary school. Six people from the school tested positive for COVID-19 prompting the shutdown order by public health officials. Exposure notices were issued for four classes.

COVID-19 testing began at East Three Secondary School on Thursday morning and ran until 9 p.m. Testing will continue Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Students and staff are required to take the Panbio COVID-19 rapid test, which involves inserting a swab two centimetres up the nostril for a sample.

The Beaufort Delta Divisional Education Council has asked that families not show up to the school without an appointment. Parents or guardians can sign students up online for a  COVID-19 testing time.

The COVID-19 testing is based on recommendations from the N.W.T.'s Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

Lack of communication

Tracy Blyth snagged time slots for her two sons after learning about the testing program late Wednesday.

"I didn't find out until 9:30 at night when they posted it on their Facebook," she said. 

Blyth said on Wednesday night that her family wasn't even sure if there would be school the next day, as the initial 10-day school closures were due to expire Thursday.

"I was just disappointed with the school's lack of communication," she said.

On Thursday afternoon, Blyth's two sons — one in junior high, the other in high school — self-administered their COVID-19 tests at the school. 

Students who test negative will not receive a call and will be able to return to class on Monday. If students test positive, public health officials will confirm the results with a second test, and then determine when the student can go back to school.

Students and staff that were part of the direct exposure notices won't need to sign up for the current testing program if they have already been tested by public health.

Judo by default

Blyth said there wasn't much in the way of online learning for her sons during the shutdown.

"We were assured that they had it all set up to do online teaching and online learning. And then when push came to shove and it actually happened, It didn't happen here," she said.

Her children were told to do catch-up work, she added.

With the pool still closed, the library limited to people 18 and older, gathering restrictions at restaurants, and the school shutdown, Blyth said there hasn't been much for kids to do in town.

"They're bored," she said. "There's only so much that you can do around the house. They've done some baking, lots of video games and puzzles." 

Her youngest son has been involved in Ed Hartley's popular local judo program for years.

"My oldest one was never interested in it before," she said. Now he has taken up judo by default.

"He said, well, it's not like there's anything else to do," said Blyth. "And it's turning out he's quite enjoying it."

With few options for kids to get together indoors and, as the weather gets colder, the schools reopening is great news, said Blyth.

"The school is super important because it is social and, for a lot of the kids, I think it's the only extracurricular [activities] that they're getting."