Nunavut government calls teachers back from the South

In the wake of school closures due to COVID-19, and recent spring breaks, right now around 85 of Nunavut's teachers are in the South.

Education minister says staff should be ready to report to work if classes start

Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, which teaches students in Grades 9 to 12. The Nunavut government says it expects teachers to be ready to work if schools open on April 21, even if they're in the south right now. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC)

In the wake of school closures due to COVID-19 and recent spring breaks, right now, around 85 of Nunavut's teachers are in the South — and the territorial government wants them to come back. 

This week, the Nunavut government said it wants all teachers to be ready to work should classes resume on April 21.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson could still recommend schools stay closed. But either way, the Education department wants to see staff create lesson plans, or do grade assessments for their students, so that learning can still happen. 

Schools in Nunavut closed on March 17 for three weeks. That closure was later extended for two more weeks. 

At a daily news conference Tuesday, Education Minister David Joanasie told reporters his department, the Nunavut Teachers' Association and the chief public health officer had advised against unnecessary travel. 

"There's advice that was presented and of course teachers went with their own decision," he said. "Given the situation, we are working on the current process of bringing back those teachers that are outside of the territory, taking into account the 14-day isolation period, and with the intent that they report to work in the next few weeks."

Most of Nunavut's teachers are still in the territory. Of the 85 that aren't, Joanasie said the largest number work in the Kivalliq region, followed by teachers in the Qikiqtaaluk region and a few from the Kitikmeot region.

Those teachers, who remain on the payroll as public servants, will have to isolate for two weeks in designated hotels in the South before going back to the communities where they work. 

There are 724 staff, including principals, teachers and student support assistants, being called back to work. 

"This is with the intent that if and when schools reopen that we [will] be in a position to support our students' learning," Joanasie said. 

If health officials recommend school doesn't open as planned, Joanasie says teachers can still work. This could mean they are making take-home learning packs or planning for report card season, he said. 

Starting Monday, school staff were allowed to use the schools to work on a voluntary basis, as well as for the internet and printing. They are still required to practise physical distancing.