Yellowknife parents optimistic about back to school, but brace for future lockdowns

For the second year in a row students are returning to school amid a global pandemic. Yellowknife parents say they are happy for their kids to get back into routine but preparing for the possibility of another lockdown.

Parents better equipped this school year to stay safe, recognize possible symptoms

Myriad, left, and Iggy Fitzky pictured last year as they prepared for the first day of school amid a global pandemic. (Submitted by Susan Fitzky)

For the second September in a row, students are returning to classrooms amid a global pandemic. 

For Yellowknifers, the first week of school coincides with what public health is calling the beginning of community transmission in the capital.

While the territory manages its most serious COVID-19 outbreak to date, start dates for schools in Behchokǫ̀ and Gametì, N.W.T. are being pushed to Sept. 7 and Tulita, N.W.T. classrooms will spend their first week learning remotely

Yellowknife schools, meanwhile, remain on track for a Monday start. 

Susan Fitzky, mother of a six and eight-year-old, said that kids thrive on routine and that hers are excited to reconnect with friends and get back into a pattern. 

Fitzky admits she is a little worried about the rising COVID-19 case count, but said since there is little they can do, "we just have to hang tight, follow the orders." 

While wearing a mask all day and maintaining physical distancing, among other pandemic precautions, can be challenging for younger students, she said that "kids have been really adaptable."

"They do a pretty darn good job of following the rules," she said. "Considering it's hard for adults to do what we're being asked, the kids, they're pretty great about it." 

Part of the ever changing reality of the pandemic, she said, is learning to adjust to new challenges.  

"And so that's what we as parents get to teach our kids during a pandemic, we can do hard things," Fitzky said. 

Sebastian, Elizabeth and Samuel Bernabe are excited about the return to school but nervous about contracting COVID-19. Mother Oyuka Bernabe says the family will follow directives and "it will be okay." (Submitted by Oyuka Bernabe)

Oyuka Bernabe also said a return to classrooms will be good for students. 

She said her kids – aged three, five and seven – are excited to again spend their school days with friends, but are more nervous about catching COVID-19 than their mother is.

"We have to balance it," she said of acknowledging the anxious and negative thoughts. "If you feel comfortable looking for positives, things improve … That's why I tell my kids, let's look for the good side of things."

Ready for return to at home learning

Because this is the second school year to start amid the pandemic, Bernabe said that people are more relaxed this year and know how to stay safe and that they should stay home if any symptoms do become present. 

"We'll take care of the kids, not sending them [to school] if they feel sick or those kinds of things. I think it will be okay," she said. 

Fitzky said most other parents she knows are also keen to see schools resume, though most are prepared for them to shut down again. 

"It feels precarious," she said. "I'm not sure that anybody feels confident that they'll be just going back and not sent home."