Education, Culture and Employment COVID-19 Updates

Information on JK-12 Schools

UPDATED WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 at 5:30 p.m.

Information for JK-12 schools

Due to the significant health concerns posed by COVID-19 and the importance of following direction from the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) on social distancing as a way to keep students, staff and communities safe, all education authorities in the NWT have agreed that schools be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

District Education Authorities, which hold the authority under the Education Act to close NWT schools, have individually announced their respective closures to staff and parents.

Timeline of decision

  • The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) of the NWT made the recommendation on March 16, 2020 that schools remain closed until after Easter Break (April 14, 2020) as a precautionary measure to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. 
  • On March 21, the CPHO issued an order to close the border and require all NWT residents returning from outside the territory to self-isolate for 14 days. This current order from the CPHO applies to all school staff and students returning from travel. A significant number of school employees were out of the territory on spring break when these travel restrictions were ordered, and are therefore currently self-isolating.
  • On March 24, 2020, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) R.J. Simpson met with Northwest Territories (NWT) Education Leaders and the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA) via teleconference to discuss the status of JK-12 education in the territory as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. All parties agreed to recommend school closures for the remainder of the school year.
  • Between March 24 and 25, 2020, District Education Authorities have been holding special meetings and voting to close schools for the remainder of the school year.

How will students continue to learn or graduate if schools are closed? 

The ECE Minister, Education Leaders and the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association (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 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 CPHO.

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. All parties share the strong interest of parents and communities in ensuring opportunities for continued learning. The NWTTA has advised that teachers are prepared and willing to help students and communities however they can during this unprecedented time.

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 much 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. The ECE Minister 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.

What about essential services, like food and wellness programs?

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.

ECE will continue to provide updates to parents, communities and education bodies as plans are developed and implemented.