NWT schools could switch in and out of class ‘at short notice’ this fall

A photo of Łutsel K’e Dene School. Sarah Pruys/South Slave Divisional Education Council
A photo of Łutsel K’e Dene School. Sarah Pruys/South Slave Divisional Education Council

Parents in the NWT should be prepared for schools to switch rapidly between in-person classes and distance learning this fall, the territorial government said on Wednesday.

Schools “are preparing to shift between in-person, distance, and blended learning at short notice should there become active Covid-19 cases,” read an update from the territory.

“Parents, guardians, students, and communities should be prepared for the learning situation to change quickly in response to evolving circumstances.”

Speedy shifts in and out of class are designed to keep students learning face-to-face where possible while maintaining public safety if Covid-19 resurfaces.



However, rapid changes could make it hard for parents to keep up and adjust their own schedules accordingly.

The territorial government said plans being drawn up will “ensure schools are able to remain open, to the extent possible, if there are new Covid-19 cases in the NWT and, regardless of circumstances, students will continue to learn.”

There haven’t been any cases of Covid-19 recorded in the territory since early April.

However, the NWT’s chief public health officer has cautioned that as restrictions ease, the likelihood of new cases will increase.



The NWT government says every school has now submitted a reopening plan for the 2020-21 academic year. Those plans are now going through an approval process.

“Schools are striving to provide a safe way for students to receive as much in-person, curriculum-based instructional time in classrooms with teachers as possible, with new health and safety procedures and restrictions in place,” the territory stated.

“Details of reopening plans will vary for each school and grade level, and will be shared with students, staff, parents, guardians, and the public once reviewed and approved by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.”

The NWT government says it will also publish a document setting out “what the public can generally expect to see at schools.”

NWT will prioritize in-person learning

Erin Currie, the chair of Yellowknife Catholic Schools, said there remained “many moving parts” to firming up plans for the fall.

“Once our school plans are approved … we will be able to share the details with parents, remembering that changes may still be forthcoming,” Currie said.

RJ Simpson, the education minister, said schools would “prioritize in-person learning” in the fall where possible. He added there would be “alternative options for continued learning” where required for health reasons.

Simpson joined education leaders and the NWT Teachers’ Association on a conference call on Tuesday at which reopening plans were discussed.



Last week, outgoing YK1 superintendent Metro Huculak told Cabin Radio he hoped restrictions would ease sufficiently to allow full-time learning in person come the fall.

“We understand if all the kids can’t be in school, some parents are going to require daycare, and so are some of our teachers with young children. I’m working with the City to see if we can use their facilities during the day,” he said.

“To be blunt, our staff want the kids in school. BC has opened up already. We’ll see where all this goes.

“It’s up to our chief public health officer to have a look at what other provinces are doing and what’s going to work here, but our hope is some things are going to get relaxed and at least the majority of our kids [will be] in school full-time.”