Jay Aspin, chair of the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) is confident that students are safe at school despite the provincial stay-at-home order. 

“The health and safety of our students is number one,” Aspin said. “We’re following the health guidelines to a T in northern Ontario. We can go back because our numbers are relatively reasonable in northern Ontario.”

Schools in northern Ontario were permitted to resume in-person learning despite students from the southern parts of the province learning from home for the next month. 

Aspin says he’s an advocate for students doing in-person learning. 

“The protocols are followed so closely that we’ve had a good record in terms of in-school learning,” he said. “For their own mental and emotional development, it’s better that they be in school.”

Aspin added the fact vaccines will be made available to educators and teachers in Phase 2 of the province’s vaccine rollout is “a good thing”. 

Meanwhile, Aspin and the NNDSB are looking to prepare their next five-year strategic plan. During its January meeting, the board identified things to be included in the multi-year strategic plan. 

“Student achievement and well-being will be right at the front,” Aspin assured. 

The board will take the next six months to come up with a more concrete multi-year plan. 

As far as tangible results that may be seen in the next year, Aspin says determining what to do with closed-down schools will be a priority. 

Widdifield Secondary School closed after last school year, with EW Norman and ET Carmichael slated to close once a new school is built on the grounds of the old WJ Fricker school. 

Aspin says the board wants to keep “ahead of the ball” with planning on how to utilize the assets of those schools when they close down. 

“They’re in excess on our books in terms of student accommodation,” he said. 

The new school at WJ Fricker was originally planned to open in September of 2021, but Aspin says the pandemic has pushed that date back.