Six Nations schools won’t re-open until September due to continually high numbers of Covid-19 cases in the community.
The community is too vulnerable to risk further spread by re-opening schools, said I.L. Thomas Principal Reva Bomberry.
“Our schools are not safe until our community has control of Covid-19,” said Bomberry during a special council meeting last Friday. “Our community is a vulnerable community. We have high levels of health factors that our affect our people. I hate to lose one more elder from our community. The three deaths that we’ve had have impacted the I.L. Thomas community. We have been impacted as a community because we’re all related in some way or another. If one family member dies in the community, we’re all impacted. We are a different community. The factors in our community are totally different than (other cities). Safety first.”
Coun. Michelle Bomberry agreed it was too early to re-open, despite a planned re-opening date of March 1.
“With the cases so high I don’t anticipate schools going back,” she said.
After going most of 2020 with a relatively low number of cases, positive diagnoses exploded beginning in January. Two Six Nations people have died from the disease in 2021. A third person died last spring.
Kathleen Manderville, Indigenous Services Canada director of education for Six Nations’s federally-run schools, said the decision to open or remain closed is up to the community and ISC would support the community’s decision.
“It is a challenging situation but ISC is not unilaterally deciding on the school reopening. It is a community-supported decision.”
Public Works Director Mike Montour had recommended re-opening schools, saying it was safe from a public health perspective.
He also recommended schools re-open from a mental health perspective, saying kids needed to be back in school and that parents were struggling and unable to work with schools and child care centres closed.
Coun. Wendy Johnson did not agree with Montour’s recommendation.
“There’s so much controversy with this. There’s so much fear around it and for good reason.”
She agreed schools should re-open in September to give the community and parents time to plan for it.
“There’s a huge urgency to have kids in school because we’ve lost so much and there’s something to be said for that classroom participation for those who want it and need it. I don’t agree with the March start.”
SNGR elected council agreed to re-open schools in September and in the meantime, provide as many supports as possible to children and parents engaging in remote learning.