The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed school boards’ negotiations of their collective agreements with the NWT Teachers’ Association (NWTTA), but teachers will continue to work.
The postponements come as the NWT approaches one full month of remote learning, after a combination of online and paper-based classes started on April 14, following the closure of all schools in late March.
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The NWTTA has collective agreements with Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS), Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk 1) and with the GNWT, which includes Allain St. Cyr school and all other schools outside of Yellowknife, said association president Fraser Oliver.
The GNWT agreement also covers schools with the Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO).
The GNWT agreement is set to expire on Aug. 30 while the Yk1 and YCS deals end on Aug. 31, the same day classes of the new school year are scheduled to resume.
Negotiation dates planned with the GNWT in late April were cancelled and virtual talks are scheduled for May 20-22 and June 2-5.
Traditionally, negotiations are conducted first with GNWT schools in communities outside of Yellowknife “because whatever increases the government schools get, the public schools in Yellowknife will be funded the same way. If there’s an increase in funding through teachers — a raise — then the same would be offered to Yellowknife teachers. The Yellowknife schools prefer to wait until the government negotiations finish,” Oliver explained.
He isn’t sure if there will be enough time for negotiations with YCS and Yk 1 in June and teachers usually take their summer vacations in July and August, so talks might be delayed until the fall.
“(The) collective agreements (with YCS and Yk 1) would just continue on if negotiations can’t happen. In my 38 years working in the NWT, that’s not uncommon, but they’ve always come to an agreement somehow,” he said.
“We don’t know what the summer will bring. I know (the GNWT is) planning for everything and for a normal return to school and they’re also planning for possible continuation of teaching from home. Or maybe it’ll be a combination of the two. I think the GNWT is wise to look at all of the options. Will there be a second wave (of Covid-19)? Will there be a vaccine? These will factor into whether we’ll have a normal school year in September,” said Oliver.