- A request to switch to online learning for the rest of the week was denied, and the school would remain open, according to the notice.
- On January 4, the first day back for many students after the holiday break, attendance rates varied across Yukon schools.
Many families were scrambling to figure out how to get their children to school or, for those who could keep them home as temperatures across the territory continued to drop below -40 C today, in some places -50 C or colder with the wind chill.
In the morning, Standard Bus, which runs the school bus system, sent out a text alert to the entire territory, saying, “ALL School Bus Routes are CANCELLED today due to weather.” This is on the other side of the Yukon. “We apologize for the inconvenience.”
While those who use the school bus system were unable to get to school, schools remained open, though in some cases, advisories were sent to families about their specific schools.
Concerns about staffing issues due to illness, cold weather, and the school’s boiler system had already prompted the school council at St. Elias School in Haines Junction to request that the Department of Education move to online learning, a request that was ultimately denied.
On social media, there was a notice to families. “We have learned from school administration that the school has been short up to 13 staff today due to illness and cold temperatures and that the school boiler systems are not working correctly due to extremely cold temperatures and issues with propane regulators,” she writes on January 5. (when frozen, one of the three boilers work). According to Weather Canada, when school starts tomorrow morning, the temperature is expected to be -47 degrees Celsius. Today, the temperature in the school reached 13 degrees Celsius at times.”
The notice mentions that a request to switch to online learning for the rest of the week was denied and that the school would remain open.
“We believe that when deciding whether or not to send their children back to school tomorrow, parents should be aware of these concerns.”
While St. Elias did not switch to online learning, Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse did so earlier this week due to a staffing shortage.
Others made it clear that schools would remain open even if buses were not running.
Children should stay at home if getting to school is a safety risk, according to an email sent to families at Christ the King Elementary School in Whitehorse, but the school would be open for those who could safely get there.
On January 4, the first day back for many students after the holiday break, attendance rates varied across Yukon schools.
The highest absenteeism rate was at Robert Service School in Dawson, where 80% of students did not attend class. Elijah Smith Elementary, Grey Mountain Primary, Selkirk Elementary, Eliza Van Bibber, and St. Elias had high absentee rates of around 40%.
“School attendance reflects what is going on in our communities.” The current COVID-19 environment poses a challenge for all, but not all absences are related to COVID. In an email, department communications analyst Krisandra Reid said, “We are currently experiencing extreme cold across the territory, and this is another challenge for families and communities.”
She pointed out that comparisons to January 2021 were difficult to come by.
It wasn’t just students who couldn’t make it to class. On January 4, six of Robert Service’s 22 teachers were absent. Five of Hidden Valley’s 16 teachers were absent, while six of Jack Hulland’s 33 were absent.
Porter Creek, Vanier, and Takhini Secondary did not have attendance data.
Many more businesses and organizations announced day-to-day closures and cancellations due to the cold weather throughout the day.
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