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Masks mandated as schools reopen Monday

Schools will reopen on May 17 in Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ and Behchokǫ̀ with a host of new COVID-19 restrictions, including mandatory masks while in classrooms.

Schools will also have to implement assigned seating on busses and keep windows open at all time on busses, school assemblies and singing class can only happen outdoors, among other restrictions.

Extracurricular activities and sports will also be allowed to restart.

But mandatory masks in public indoor spaces will still be enforced until the school year has ended because of the high risk schools can have spreading the virus in the event of another outbreak, says NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola.

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Schools will have to implement these new COVID-19 measures by Monday. R.J. Simpson,  Minister of Education, Culture and Employment says schools should be well set up to comply with the new measures when schools reopen.

“There is money that has already been allocated, and there’s money that I believe is still unspent, and that can be used to purchase additional masks,” said Simpson.

”We’ve already been supporting the schools to ensure that they can follow all of the safety precautions in place for, so we don’t foresee safety issues with a lack of supplies or lacking the ability to get supplies.”

School boards have the option to not reopen and keep doing distance learning if their school board decides. Simpson said the Yellowknife Catholic Schools board had confirmed it would open schools, but Simpson said he had not yet spoken with other schools.

By Sunday, the vast majority of contacts will be able to leave isolation. Household members who live with contacts of people exposed to COVID-19 will be able to leave their house without receiving a negative COVID-19 test, once their 14-day isolation period is done.

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Families who live with confirmed cases of COVID-19 stemming from the outbreak — most of the confirmed cases are children — will have to receive a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to leave isolation.

Come May 17, schools in Yellowknife will have been closed for two weeks. So far there have been 61 COVID-19 cases stemming from the outbreak at N.J. Macpherson.

Most of the COVID-19 cases are students at N.J. Macpherson or household members of students, according to Kandola.

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