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Education boards across the territory have agreed not to open schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, the GNWT said in a news release on Thursday.

“Due to the many complex operational challenges faced by schools at this time, education leaders have decided not to reopen schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year,” the release said. “(They) agreed to take a coordinated, territory-wide approach to determining if schools will reopen.”

The news follows a period of confusion earlier in the week when education superintendents, the public and MLAs said they were surprised that the GNWT approved the opening of schools after they were closed in late March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

RELATED REPORTING: No advance notice of GNWT plan to allow schools to re-open, educators and MLAs say

The government’s Emerging Wisely plan for relaxing Covid-related restrictions states that schools can open in the first phase of recovery, which might start as soon as Friday.

RELATED REPORTING: Schools, hair salons may re-open as GNWT announces ease on restrictions

Circumstances differ greatly across the communities and regions of the territory when it comes to capacity to reopen schools, the release said, and challenges that would make a swift reopening of schools difficult include “the absence of teachers in many communities, strong concerns from local governments, and an immediate shortage of the equipment required to maintain safety under the CPHO’s recommendations.”

Most schools are also skeptical they could implement the elaborate risk management plans required by the GNWT to reopen before the end of the school year.

“I am encouraged by the recent recommendations of the NWT Chief Public Health Officer regarding the safe operation of schools during the time of Covid-19. I understand the many challenges faced by our Education Bodies across the territory, and support their unified decision to focus efforts on planning for the fall while supporting continued learning for all NWT students for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year,” said R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE).

Commenting on the GNWT release, Metro Huculak, superintendent of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 said he echoes some of its sentiments.

“We are going to continue with our e-learning and delivery of packages to support students and plan effectively with our colleagues for a fall start, whatever that will look like.”

Simon Cloutier, Chair of Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest said the school boards analyzed their capacity to reopen and determined that they wouldn’t, for the sake of safety of students and staff.

“Taking the necessary time to plan for a well-thought-out re-entry in the fall is our priority. That being said, we will continue to support our students via our continuity of learning plans until the end of June,” he said.

The remote learning programs of schools in the NWT are ongoing and there are about six weeks left in the school year.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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