The NWT government and education leaders have agreed that the territory’s schools be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The territorial government made the announcement on Wednesday evening, saying leaders from education districts across the NWT had agreed with minister RJ Simpson’s recommendation that the schools close until the fall.
The YK1 school district had passed a motion supporting the move a day earlier. The measure is a response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
“Education leaders have shared the recommendation with district education authorities, who hold the authority under the Education Act to close NWT schools,” read an NWT government statement.
“Closures are being announced individually by respective education councils.”
Leaders of the following groups were represented at a meeting held by teleconference on Tuesday evening:
- Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency;
- Dettah and Ndilo District Education Authorities;
- Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest;
- Beaufort Delta Education Council;
- Dehcho Divisional Education Council;
- South Slave Divisional Education Council;
- Sahtu Divisional Education Council;
- Yellowknife Education District No 1 (YK1);
- Yellowknife Catholic Schools; and the
- NWT Teachers’ Association.
In a statement, Simpson said Covid-19’s threat and disruption had “evolved substantially” since an initial recommendation, a week ago, to keep schools closed until April 14.
“We must continue to make difficult decisions to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Simpson said.
“I remain committed to working with our education bodies to provide students and communities with the programs and services they need to succeed throughout this unprecedented time.”
The territory’s francophone school board, like many other districts, said “a plan to support learning will soon be developed and offered to students.”
The Commission scolaire francophone continued: “We will pay special attention to our Grade 12 students so that they are not disadvantaged in their choices of post-secondary education, career, or employment.
“In addition, we will soon be announcing how students and staff members will be able to recover their personal belongings left in our schools.”
What happens next?
The NWT government said all education leaders agree “a plan is required to support continued learning for all students, especially those in Grade 12, to achieve their education and career goals.”
The Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it was meeting daily with superintendents and teachers’ representatives.
Priorities are support for essential services and figuring out how to keep students learning in some shape or form, even from home. Essential services include food programs and how to maintain them while schools are closed.
“Plans continue to be adjusted as new information and direction is provided by the chief public health officer,” the NWT government said, hinting at the uncertainty of decision-making during the pandemic.
“While the immediate priority is not to provide lessons or give instruction, it is necessary to identify and secure essential services for supporting students and communities,” the statement continued.
“The NWT Teachers’ Association has advised that teachers are prepared and willing to help students and communities however they can during this unprecedented time.”
The NWT said it would remain in close contact with Alberta throughout. The province’s curriculum and tests are used in the majority of the territory’s school programming.
How students graduating high school this year will advance to post-secondary level is being discussed at both territorial and federal level.