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Yukon government announces schools will open in the fall

The Yukon government announced students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to school in the fall. The news came during the territory's update on COVID-19 in the territory Tuesday.

'This has been a school year like no other,' says Minister of Education Tracy-Anne McPhee

A sign outside Golden Horn Elementary School in Whitehorse. The Yukon government will be providing an update on COVID-19 in the territory on Tuesday, along with information on the upcoming 2020-21 school year. (Paul Tukker)

The Yukon government announced students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to school in the fall. The news came during the territory's update on COVID-19 in the territory on Tuesday afternoon.

Minister of Education Tracy-Anne McPhee and Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gave the announcement. 

"This has been a school year like no other," McPhee said. "The 2020 pandemic is now a part of your story."

Schools will work on safety measures for staff and students, based on guidance from the territory's chief medical officer, McPhee added.

"We know our efforts to date are working," McPhee said.

She added the territory must be prepared in case other situations arise, like a second wave of COVID-19.

Each school required to make plans

Parents and guardians should complete the bus registrations before June 19 for students returning to school, said McPhee.

Each school is required to make an operational plan too, which will be shared in August ahead of the first day back so families and students know what to expect.

McPhee said there will be a continued option for students to receive their course work at home in the fall for students who can't come to school for various reasons, such as being immunocompromised. 

Hanley said the reopening of schools is a new step toward "our new normal." He added he could not speak to whether Yukon University would be reopened, but that he has been in conversations with the facility regarding potential health guidelines.

"What we have today is the general plan and the general framework for how we're going to get kids in school face to face," he said.

As the guidelines continue to be worked on for schools, he said the government is taking into consideration various measures like what spacing between students could look like and other measures to ensure safety. They are also taking into account the possibility that the risks could change, he said.

McPhee said schools won't necessarily hire more teachers. There could also be the opportunity for spacing and class sizes to be tailored to each school's individual needs.

McPhee said the government will eventually be looking for feedback from families, students.

Closure in March

In March, the government announced classes would be suspended until at least April 15.

Then in April, McPhee confirmed public schools would remain closed to students for the rest of this school year because of the pandemic. Officials also said at the time that teachers were looking at ways to offer "essential learning" from a distance, through apps and other online resources. 

It has been more than a month than since the last confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced in the territory. Yukon has 11 confirmed cases to date and all of those people have recovered.

During last week's news conference update, Premier Sandy Silver also announced funding for people with disabilities to assist them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Missed the press conference? Watch it in full here:

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