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Territorial education leaders are in agreement with the education minister on the recommendation to close schools for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, the GNWT said Wednesday in a news release. 

The release comes after a teleconference held Tuesday between R.J. Simpson, minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE), education leaders and the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA) to discuss junior kindergarten-Grade 12 education amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Education leaders in the meeting included the chairs of the Tlicho Community Services Agency, Dettah and Ndilo District Education Authorities, the Commission Scolaire Francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO), Beaufort Delta Education Council, Dehcho Divisional Education Council, South Slave Divisional Education Council, Sahtu Divisional Education Council, Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk 1) and Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS), as well as NWTTA President Fraser Oliver. 

In another teleconference held at noon on Tuesday, the Yk 1 board of trustees voted unanimously to close schools for the remainder of the school year. 

Several parents of students attending Yk 1 schools also joined that teleconference and expressed concern over the status of Grade 12 graduation, class continuity, exams and inquired about the possibility of online learning for the rest of the school year. 

The trustees agreed that the specifics of Grade 12 graduation are among the top priorities for Yk 1.  

In an email to NNSL Media on Wednesday, Yk 1 superintendent Metro Huculak said those concerns are on Yk 1’s working agenda. 

“We will be working on (those issues) with our principals and with ECE staff.  There should be more on this beginning of next week. Right now we are concentrating on the health and safety of staff and students,” Huculak said. 

Yk 1 has set up a website for parents, teachers and other concerned parties with information on developments related to the COVID-19 situation.

The GNWT news release went on to state that Simpson, education leaders and the NWTTA all agree that a plan is needed to address those issues. 

“ECE continues to meet daily with NWT education superintendents and the NWTTA to discuss support for essential services, continuity of educational programming and ongoing communication. These plans continue to be adjusted as new information and direction is provided by the chief public health officer,” the release stated. “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.

“ECE will continue to work with the NWTTA and education bodies to find options for providing educational programming to all NWT students, particularly those in Grade 12. This includes reviewing what’s being done in other jurisdictions, especially Alberta, whose curriculum and major assessment tools are used for the majority of NWT education programming.”

“ECE will also be working to coordinate with post-secondary institutions across Canada in an effort to ensure the smoothest transition possible for those graduating this year. Minister Simpson continues to have weekly calls with Canadian education ministers to discuss ways to ensure students graduating high school this year are able to advance to post-secondary institutions.”

In a news release on Wednesday from the CSFTNO, that board emphasized it would pay “special attention” to the status of Grade 12 graduation for its students. 

“In addition, the CSFTNO will soon be announcing how students and staff members will be able to recover their personal belongings left in our schools. We want this to be done safely and we will be proposing a plan to do so soon,” it added. 

 

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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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