Wildfire Evacuations: School Information

[updated September 26, 2023]

Q: How are school staff and families being supported following Northwest Territories community-wide evacuations? What mental health supports are available for school staff, families and students?

The health and safety of residents is our primary concern. There are a variety of mental health supports available for students, staff and families during this difficult time. The Northwest Territories (NWT) Department of Health and Social Services has confirmed that the following supports are available for residents:

There are some additional supports for students and staff that can be found here, including Breathing Room e-mental health program for youth aged 13-24, the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) for GNWT staff, and Starling Minds, a digital Cognitive Behavioural Therapy platform that is available to members of the NWT Teachers’ Association.

Q: When did school start in communities that were evacuated?

It was up to education bodies to decide when each school and community would start school, once it was deemed safe to return home. Please continue to follow information from the school boards for the latest updates.

Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndılǫ

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1), Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) and Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CSFTNO) schools returned on September 14, 2023.

Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah and K'álemì Dene School in Ndılǫ reopened on September 18.

South Slave

The following South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) schools opened on September 25.

  • Fort Smith: Joseph B. Tyrrell Elementary School (JBT), Paul W. Kaeser High School (PWK),
  • Hay River: Princess Alexandra School, Harry Camsell School, and Diamond Jenness Secondary School

- Kakisa Lake School opened on September 11.

- École Boréale in Hay River fully reopened September 25.

- Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation fully reopened on September 27.

Q: Will schools be making up for lost time, like shortening March or Christmas breaks, or cutting down on professional development days?

As schools reopen, education bodies, with support from ECE, can begin to determine how best to support students and staff and address the potential impacts of the evacuation and being away from their homes and communities.

It will be up to each education body to determine if changes need to be made to their school calendars as a result of lost time due to the evacuations.

There will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach for schools, education bodies and communities, as each community faces unique challenges. Education bodies will continue to keep parents, students and staff up to date as they have more information available.

Q: Are there educational resources that I can access to support my child’s learning when school is not open?

Yes, there are free, optional educational resources that you can use if you’d like to support your child’s learning before the evacuation orders end. Yellowknife education bodies put together a list of resources by grade level, which can be viewed here.

Q: Did the evacuations effect curriculum renewal plans? Will teachers have the training/orientation necessary?

Northwest Territories schools will begin trialling the new adapted curriculum in grades 4-6 and 9 as planned. As this is an opportunity to try out the new curriculum, a delayed start did not impact the roll-out of the new curriculum.

Curriculum Renewal training sessions for trialling educators were scheduled in August-October throughout the NWT. Sessions that had to be cancelled will be rescheduled. It is a priority to provide this training to all NWT educators who will be trialling the new curriculum.

Q: There was a significant loss of learning due to COVID-19, and now evacuations caused further loss of learning time. How is the GNWT measuring and responding to these disruptions?

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) regularly measures different Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 (JK-12) student outcomes that provide some insight into how students are doing academically, as well as their health and wellbeing.

Annual reports summarize these findings and provide ECE and education bodies crucial data to address students’ needs, and ensure we’re providing the supports and resources needed for them to thrive.

This data has continued to show the potential impacts the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures have had on students. While there is not a single solution to the challenges students may face because of school closures and inconsistencies in learning, the GNWT provides resources and programs that can help.

  • Career and Education Advisors: These advisors work with grades 9 –12. CEAs provide practical support, including how to write resumes and cover letters and how to complete applications for work, post-secondary programs, Student Financial Assistance, bursaries, grants or scholarships. CEAs are working remotely to continue to support students who have been evacuated.
  • Inclusive Schooling: Inclusive Schooling is a foundation of education in the NWT, which means that every student is supported with educational programming that is appropriate for them. Students must be provided access to the necessary supports that best meet their diverse and individual needs, which may include accommodations, modifications or individualized programming and plans.