All four education bodies affected by recent NWT school closures are telling parents not to worry about internet connections and laptops – they have a plan.
The Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, Yellowknife Education District No 1 (YK1), Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, and Yellowknife Catholic Schools said they have internet connectivity devices – often called turbo sticks – available for families who don’t have internet at home or who don’t have an unlimited internet package.
Most also said Chromebooks are available for students who need them for online learning.
“The parents just have to notify the school if they have a problem. They have nothing to worry about,” said Yvonne Careen, superintendent of the francophone school board.
“They have access to everything they need … we have been arranging this with parents since Tuesday.”
Simone Gessler, superintendent at the Catholic school board, said by email the territory’s education department had provided Chromebooks and turbo sticks in case schools had to switch back to remote learning.
“Over the last several days, [we] have been determining which students require these supports and distributing them as appropriate,” Gessler wrote.
At YK1, information technology services manager Martin Male said arrangements have been made to distribute Chromebooks and turbo sticks.
“Four wi-fi access points were also installed outside École Sir John Franklin High School, providing a connection along most of the exterior of the building,” said Male by email.
“Access points were enhanced at each YK1 school to provide a stronger connection so that families can access wi-fi within 20 feet of the exterior of each school.”
Linsey Hope, director of education for the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, said the agency was making “every effort to provide students with turbo sticks so that students can access remote learning.”
She said any parents that need support for devices or internet access should speak to their child’s teacher.
“Most junior and senior high families have already been provided with at least one device per home,” said Hope. “If they have specific concerns, the best place to get information is the teacher or principal.”
In some NWT communities, unlimited internet plans are now available where they would not have been a year ago. This time last year, dominant northern internet provider Northwestel switched off many data caps for a period of several months as students began studying at home once the pandemic hit.
This time around, parents can in many cases switch to unlimited plans or may already have done so. However, those plans cost more money than plans that come with a data cap, after which overage fees can be charged.
Northwestel did not respond to a request for comment.