Grade 12 graduation, essential services for students top priorities, says minister

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Education Minister R.J. Simpson outlined in a letter to all parents, guardians and education staff on Wednesday that one of the top priorities following the recommendation to close schools is supporting Grade 12 students to meet graduation requirements.

“For those students expecting to graduate this year, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) will work with post-secondary institutions across Canada on admission requirements to ensure the smoothest transition possible in this extraordinary year,” he said.

The education minister made the closure recommendation on Tuesday as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board of trustees of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 also voted that day to close all of its schools for the remainder of the school year.

In his letter, Simpson added another priority was identifying essential services that many youth depend on such as school meal programs, mental health supports and support for students with complex needs “by developing home-based resources for their parents and caregivers.”

A third priority area is finding ways that ECE staff can work with education and licensed early childhood partners to provide child care services for NWT health care and essential services staff.

“These positions are critical in supporting our overall health system and we must find ways to support these workers during this pandemic,” he said.

The education minister said the immediate priority is securing essential services for supporting students, their families and communities, rather than providing lessons.

NNSL Media has inquired with the GNWT as to how the schools closure will affect the planned roll out of 49 new Child and Youth Care Counsellor jobs across the territory. Those positions are aimed at providing more mental health support for students and families in the NWT.

A bulletin clarifying how the school closures will affect students and the NWT’s plans for continued student learning will be issued next Monday on the ECE website.

The bulletin will explain how Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 (JK-12) students’ academic results and high school course completion will be managed for the 2019-2020 school year, and will also include information on continued JK-12 learning opportunities for students, as well as home-based resources.

“These measures are temporary. This is a very challenging time in the NWT, in Canada, and around the world, but we must act together and act now to prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” Simpson said.

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