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OLCN opening discussion on return to school plans

Onion Lake Cree Nation is looking for community feedback as they have three scenarios outlined for a return to school.

The Department of Education has three scenarios planned, but will not move forward with one until the community is informed and students and teachers are prepared.

The first scenario is to start schools as normal as possible while following health guidelines and increasing sanitization. Classrooms will be based around cohorts and students and staff’s health will be monitored.

The second scenario would alternate with half of students going to school in-person for one week then take online classes the next week.

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The third would be to go forward with remote online learning and no in-person classes. Clarke says they will be able to provide computers to students who don’t have one.

Director of Education Fred Dillon says there are still some challenges to prepare for scenario three. He says they are in the process of upgrading the internet service which will be able to handle the demand of 1,400 students as well as staff and community members.

He mentions they are also trying to get funding through a Jordan Principle proposal which will go towards upgrading the internet services at students’ homes, but it won’t be immediate.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our students and our staff. So we will do our due diligence trying to  maintain that safety within the school.”

Terry Clarke, with the Department of Education says the decision on what scenario they will follow will come from Chief and Council with guidance from the pandemic team and Dr. Ibrahim Khan with Indigenous Services Canada. However, he also says parents have a choice in sending their children to school.

“You can choose to homeschool. You can choose to home study. You can choose to send your kids to school. That is your choice, we’re not taking that away. All we are doing is presenting potential scenarios so that the community is aware of what we are going to do.”

He adds the September 2nd date is a tentative one for reopening and it could be pushed back depending on what the community has to say.

An online survey regarding the school reopenings is open and a community meeting at the Onion Lake Memorial Communiplex Arena is scheduled for August 19th for parents and caretakers to discuss their concerns around reopening.

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