Students during recess in the playground of Yellowknife's École JH Sissons. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The board of trustees for Yellowknife’s YK1 school district has approved a motion to keep its schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
The decision came at a special boarding meeting held on Tuesday lunchtime. It follows an earlier recommendation from the NWT’s chief public health officer that schools close until at least April 14.
Cabin Radio understands school districts expect the NWT government to publicly recommend a similar measure later this week, asking schools to stay closed until the new academic year in the fall.
Yellowknife Catholic Schools said in a brief statement it was “prepared to support” that recommendation.
YK1 told staff it would now work on how to deliver lessons and what is expected of teachers while the schools themselves are closed.
Keeping YK1’s schools closed for the remainder of the academic year means students at JH Sissons, which is due to be demolished this summer, have almost certainly studied inside the existing Sissons buildings for the last time. It is set to reopen with an entirely new facility in 2022.
The motion approved on Tuesday called the Covid-19 pandemic “an evolving concern for public health and safety … which has directly impacted JK-12 education program delivery.”
The motion goes on to state that YK1 “confirms the closure of schools for the remainder of the 19-20 school year.”
The school district said it would follow future recommendations of the chief public health officer as they are issued.
Minister to ‘discuss pros and cons’
In an update sent to staff immediately after the board passed its motion, YK1 stated: “At this point in time, YK1, the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment, and the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association’s focus is on contingency planning, staff wellness, and protecting families in our community.
“We will eventually pivot to lesson planning and what’s expected of teachers while schools are closed but we’re not there yet.
“We expect to learn more later this week and will share information with parents and stakeholders at that time.”
The NWT government told Cabin Radio in a statement: “The Minister of Education, Culture, and Employment and education bodies remain in communication regarding school closures and supports to communities.
“The minister will be holding a meeting with education leaders (education body chairs) this evening to share information pertaining to Covid-19 and a government-wide response to this quickly evolving situation.
“There will be discussions among education leaders about the pros and cons of closing schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.”