Six Nations schools will remain closed until at least March 1, depending on the number of Covid cases circulating in the community.
Schools were set to re-open this month but cases began to surge in the community, and across the province, beginning in December.
This past week saw case numbers on the reserve reach alarming levels.
Six Nations Public Health announced yesterday there were 53 active cases of the virus in the community.
Kathleen Manderville, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) director of federal schools, said a team of educators and community members decided to continue with online learning rather than returning in person.
“We’re (ISC) very mindful that our job is to prepare the schools and have them ready to open,” said Manderville. “It’s not our decision to open them.”
A group of community leaders, parents and educators recommended to Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council that students continue to learn remotely until at least March 1 at Tuesday’s general council meeting.
“If those numbers keep going up then it makes it impossible for our schools to re-open in a safe manner,” said Principal Reva Bomberry, chastising community members for the current number of cases. “We’re not responsible for the irresponsibility of community members.”
She said schools are safe but they cannot re-open if numbers continue at current levels.
Based on survey answers from parents, she said they will keep schools closed and re-assess the decission on Feb. 19.
Teachers should be allowed back in schools on Feb. 22 with a potential return of in-person learning on Mar. 1, pending community covid numbers.
The school re-opening planning team has been meeting since March 2020, when schools were shut down due to the pandemic.
They’ve since created an extensive re-opening plan, which includes places extra custodians in schools, hiring nurses, increased cleaning and sanitizing, the installation of barriers in classrooms, reducing class sizes, and placing signage throughout the schools.
According to a home survey, parents from OMSK elementary voted in the largest majority to resume in-person learning, with 60 per cent of parents in favour. At Emily C. General, parents were 58 per cent in favour; at J.C. Hill, 39 per cent were in favour; at I.L. Thomas, 36 per cent were in favour; and at Jamieson Elementary, only 32 per cent were in favour.
The re-opening plan recommends that class sizes will range from three to 10 students but will not exceed 15 students at any time.
Siblings will remain in the same cohort, attending school on the same days, so that families stick together, and will engage in remote learning on the other days.
All staff and students will be required to wear personal protective equipment, such as masks and face shields, but teachers will have the option to go into an isolated area periodically throughout the day to get a breather from wearing a mask.
Bomberry lauded the hard work of Six Nations educators during the past year.
“A lot of us worked right through our summer vacation. Based on all the work that’s done the schools are ready. Our schools are safe. Our teachers are exceptional educators who have been walking with us on this arduous journey. We should have a shout out for our teachers.”