On Wednesday March 25th, around 5 PM, the government of the Northwest Territories released a statement announcing NWT’s Education Leaders decision, with the recommendation from Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) R.J. Simpson that schools be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The release stated that Minister Simpson met with Northwest Territories Education Leaders and the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA) via teleconference on Tuesday, March 24 to discuss the status of JK-12 education in the territory as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.
Education Leaders included
- Chairs of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency
- Dettah and Ndilo District Education Authorities (DEAs)
- The Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest
- Beaufort Delta Education Council
- Dehcho Divisional Education Council
- South Slave Divisional Education Council
- Sahtu Divisional Education Council
- Yellowknife Education District No. 1
- Yellowknife Catholic Schools
- NWTTA President
This follows the NWT’s Chief Public health Officer’s (CPHO) recommendation that schools remain closed until after Easter Break as a precautionary measure to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
The statement explains the that due to the significant health concerns posed by COVID-19 and the importance of following direction from the CPHO on social distancing as a way to keep students, staff and communities safe, Education Leaders have shared the recommendation with District Education Authorities, who hold the authority under the Education Act to close NWT schools.
Closures are being announced individually by respective education councils.
Minister Simpson, Education Leaders and the NWTTA recognize the serious impact school closures will have on students, parents, staff and communities, and have agreed that a plan is required to support continued learning for all students, especially those in Grade 12, to achieve their education and career goals.
ECE also 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.
The continuation of meal programs, along with counselling and other health and wellness programming, have been identified by ECE, the CPHO and education bodies as essential to NWT communities, and work is ongoing to identify which positions and individuals will be involved in providing these programs and services during school closures.
The release concludes with the following statement from the Minister;
“The COVID-19 situation in the Northwest Territories has evolved substantially since the initial closure of schools on March 16. As new public health advisories and orders are put in place, including the declaration of a public health emergency, the closure of the NWT border and the cancellation of all gatherings, we must continue to make difficult decisions to protect the health and safety of our residents. I am grateful to the NWT Education Leaders for their dedication and commitment to ensuring the well-being of our students, staff and communities in deciding to close schools for the remainder of the school year. As Minister, I remain committed to working with our education bodies to provide students and communities with the programs and services they need to succeed throughout this unprecedented time.” – Hon. R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment