A playground outside Yellowknife's Weledeh and St Pat's schools. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Education councils in Yellowknife and the South Slave say they cannot predict a school start date given this month’s wildfire evacuations.
YK1, Yellowknife Catholic Schools, K’àlemì Dene School in Ndılǫ, Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah, the South Slave Divisional Education Council, and La Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest all said that until a safe return date is announced, they cannot set a first day of school.
August 28 was the original start date for Yellowknife-area students, while South Slave students were supposed to return to school in the first week of September.
The delayed start date includes South Slave schools in communities not under evacuation orders: Deninu School in Fort Resolution and Łútsël K’é Dene School in Łútsël K’é.
“While there have been some inquiries about virtual learning, we want to assure you that it is not being considered,” said the boards in identical statements.
“Like many of you, our staff left swiftly, taking only necessary items, and now reside in accommodations not conducive to providing instruction. We believe many of you find yourselves in similar circumstances and are not positioned to manage or organize instruction for your children.
“Our school year will commence when every student who has returned to their home community can engage in person with their school, teachers, and other staff.”
On Sunday, Premier Caroline Cochrane suggested virtual learning as an option when asked what would happen at the start of the school year at a press conference. Her suggestions were immediately opposed by the NWT Teachers’ Association.
The most recent statement from the territory’s education department, quoted in the news release the education councils sent out, asserts that department staff are meeting regularly with school superintendents and “minimizing disruptions to students’ learning is a priority, but currently, online learning is not being pursued.”
The school boards said they aim to provide updates every few days, “even if there isn’t much new to report.”