Evening classes — COVID-19 fix — a hit at Colville Lake high school

A smart solution for accommodating physical distancing at one of the Northwest Territories’ smallest schools is proving to be a hit with students. 

In Colville Lake, elementary school students take classes during regular daytime hours. High school starts at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 9:30 p.m. 

Sixteen-year-old Logan Orlias says he doesn’t mind at all. 

“It’s better than waking up in the morning for me,” said the Grade 11 student. “In the morning I’m more tired and I’m more hungry. When I go in the evening I can eat before I go there. I feel way better than in the day.”

Colville Lake, population 129, has just over 50 school-aged children. Older students attend classes in a small log cabin. A one-room portable nearby houses younger children down to junior kindergarten.

Attendance ‘really good,’ says teacher

“The attendance has been really good so far,” said Johanna French, who teaches Grades 9 to 12. “I’d say maybe even better than the beginning of last year.”

In the past, the community has struggled to keep kids in school, partly because of the small number of students and teachers, and partly because of the condition of the school. 

“The school needs more room,” said chief Wilbert Kochon. “Right now I think there’s over 50 kids and that’s too much for a little school.

“It’s kind of like one classroom but then they put separators,” Kochon said. “If someone were to get sick the whole school would probably have to shut down.” 

Planning for a new school got underway last fall, according to Cabin Radio, after years of lobbying by community members. 

The split-shift plan is meant to be an interim one until an alternate space can be found within the community, said Kochon. 

Classes have been in session for about three weeks, and so far so good. 

“It makes sense,” said French. “Teenagers need a lot of sleep. They need to eat.”

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