A playground outside Weledeh Catholic School. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
School in evacuated communities won’t start for at least a week after it’s safe for everyone to return home, the NWT’s education department says.
The Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE) said school staff will need a week or more to return to the territory with their families and settle in, once able to do so.
Maintenance checks on school properties and preparation of classrooms will also need to be completed before students can return.
Calling the situation “ongoing and fluid,” the department said every community’s situation is unique and committed education bodies to giving families at least a week’s notice once they pick a start date.
In a Friday letter to parents, school districts in Yellowknife jointly stated: “We can say with relative certainty that Yellowknife schools will not be ready to open on September 11.
“We can appreciate your concern about the loss of instructional time. However, please know there is no expectation for you as parents to begin the school year at this time.
“When we can return and have our staff in place, we will be better positioned to provide you with additional detail regarding any decisions that may need to be discussed to address the time we have been required to be away from our community.”
How or if schools will make up for lost instructional time is unclear. Breaks could be shortened or staff professional development days cut, for example, but education bodies still don’t know the full extent of upheaval to their calendars wrought by evacuation orders.
“There will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach for schools, education bodies and communities, as each community is facing unique challenges amid the wildfire threats,” ECE stated on its website.
In the meantime, some NWT parents told Cabin Radio they had temporarily enrolled their children in Alberta schools.
The NWT government said Alberta school enrolment is optional, but asserted that move “could support mental health and wellness by giving students and families some structure, access to programs and facilities like a gym, library and music room, and potentially an opportunity to connect with other NWT families.”
NWT education records are not needed for temporary registration.