Some N.J. Macpherson parents ready to send their children back to school Monday

Rob Warburton is a parent of two kids in Yellowknife's N.J. Macpherson School and had to isolate with his family because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 'I'm comfortable sending my kids back,' he told CBC.

'I'm comfortable sending my kids back,' says parent of 5-year-old

Rob Warburton has two kids aged three and five. He's comfortable sending his kids back to school after a two-week shutdown due to an outbreak of COVID-19. (submitted by Rob Warburton)

Rob Warburton had to isolate with his family because of the COVID-19 outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School. He said he trusts the testing being done and is not worried about his children returning to school on Monday.

"I don't feel it's any more of a risk than it was before sending my kids back to school after we get the all clear," he said. "I'm comfortable sending my kids back."

Schools in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀ were ordered closed May 2 after an outbreak of COVID-19 was declared at N.J. Macpherson School. On Wednesday, the chief public health officer, the territory's medical director, Premier Caroline Cochrane, Health Minister Julie Green and Education Minister R.J. Simpson held a press conference where they announced schools will re-open on Monday, May 17.

Following the announcement, Yellowknife Catholic Schools, Yellowknife Education District One, Commission scolaire francophone Territories du Nord-Ouest and the Tlicho Community Services Agency sent out almost identical letters repeating the new measures required for their schools to reopen, as well as encouraging children who are eligible to get vaccinated.

A blue building with a Canadian flag in front stands before a blue sky.
N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. It's set to reopen Monday following a two-week closure due to COVID-19. ( Liny Lamberink/CBC)

In the letters, each board recognized "that the past week and a half has been challenging for many families and we appreciate your patience and commitment to your child's education as we moved to remote learning in a effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community."

The new measures — which include mandatory masking for students and staff, opening windows where possible, assigned seating on school buses and "enhanced seating arrangements" in class — only apply to schools in Yellowknife, NDilo, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀.

Warburton is ready to send his five- and three-year-olds back to class, one to Kindergarten and the other to the  Montessori preschool. 

"I think it's important the kids get back to semi-normal as fast as they can in a healthy and safe way because this is not just hard on parents, this is hard on them too," Warburton said of the reopening. 

He said the isolation hasn't been easy, but they've been getting by.

"Just being thrust into it, I think that's been the hardest part." 

Warburton notes school will be a little more challenging on the kids because of the new measures, but understands that they are necessary.

"Obviously more restrictions on what the kids can do in school, it's a lot more work on the staff and teachers at the school, it's more for parents, kind of more things that pull away from education, but we're all learning."

Masks 'a big change'

Jessica Simpson has also been isolating with her two children who go to N.J. She's confident about her kids going back, but is a little worried on how they will enforce the restrictions like wearing a mask at all times or sitting at forward-facing desks.

"I think they're well intentioned, but I'm just not sure how it would actually function when you actually put the kids and the teachers in the situation."

"It's going to be, I think, a big change for some of [the kids] and having to get used to these rules," said Simpson. "But on the other hand, children are also pretty resilient. So I guess we'll see how the first few days pan out for them and how they feel about it."

Simpson says she wasn't expecting a return to school so quickly, but is glad that next week will bring some normalcy back to her family.

"I had been anticipating this news for a while, like, wondering what's going to happen and to be honest, I thought that we were going to be at home for the foreseeable future like until September or something just because there had been so many cases."

With files from Kate Kyle