A mother of two in Fort Providence says it’s important for parents to support each other as school-aged children return to home learning.
Schools in many communities in the NWT took their courses online this week as cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 increase.
At Deh Gáh School in Fort Providence, online learning will continue until at least January 21.
With school already delayed by a week, five-year-old Lakal Sittichinlii is starting to miss his classmates and teachers, according to his mother Karalyn Menicoche.
“He asks, you know, ‘Is it school time?’ every now and then, ”Menicoche said in an interview with Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis.
“I’m going to be like ‘No, boy – we’re in a little lockdown here in the community because a lot of people are getting sick with COVID.'”
Menicoche said learning at home can be difficult for parents – they need to figure out how to burn off their children’s energy, manage their time, and take care of their own mental health.
She is grateful to be at home right now with Lakal and her 10 month old baby, Lawson Sittichinli, instead of working.
“I just need to breathe and calm down, but also reach out to my other friends who are mothers. So just getting that support helps, too,” she said.
With no face-to-face interactions, Menicoche said it’s important to find a support system in different ways – by phone or online.
“That’s the only thing that worried me… how do people deal with their mental health? Being Dene, being traditional, we’re so used to getting together and talking and shaking hands – how does everyone handle that? ” she said.
“I find talking about it really helps.”
Being busy, but missing the classroom
Deh Gáh School announced its switch to distance learning on its website and in a Facebook post on Friday afternoon.
He said teachers at the school would connect with students and families to organize student learning at home and provide learning kits.
Menicoche said the school has sent reading modules to Lakal, which she is happy to have.
“It helped, just so he didn’t have to go back to school.”
A brush with COVID
Menicoche’s household was already exposed to COVID-19 in early December when his partner returned from shift work with what he believed to be a cold.
Acting on his instincts, Menicoche didn’t let Lakal go to school, and soon enough, his partner’s COVID-19 test came back positive.
He was able to isolate himself in Hay River instead of Fort Providence, which helped alleviate the stress of his situation.
Menicoche said it was “a little scary”, especially given the small size of Fort Providence. She only spoke to a few people so as not to create panic.
His advice to communities facing COVID-19 is simple: be kind, do your part, and stay safe with each other.
Online for at least two weeks
Deh Gáh School was one of many schools in the NWT to announce that it will be switching to online learning for the first two weeks of school.
This came after Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said there was community spread of Omicron in Aklavik, Behchokǫ̀, Dettah, Fort Providence, Hay River, Ndilǫ, Whatì and Yellowknife.
All schools in these communities switched to e-learning on Kandola’s recommendation, joining Colville Lake School, which had proactively moved online classes for the first week of school as residents returned from vacation. .
All Tłı̨chǫ schools have also switched to distance learning, as has the Ehtseo Ayha school in Délı̨nę. The Beaufort Delta Divisional Education Council said its schools will go online from January 10 to 14.
This council said in a Facebook post that the return to classrooms after Jan. 14 was tentative for most of its schools.