Minister and Education Leaders discuss continued support for students with complex needs during COVID-19


Yellowknife — May 6, 2020

R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) met with territorial education leaders and the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association (NWTTA) during their biweekly teleconference on May 5, 2020 to further discuss continued learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on what is currently being done to support families and students with complex needs.

Leaders shared the work underway by educational staff in each region to help families support at-home learning and mental well-being for students with complex needs during this unprecedented time of school closures, and the areas where more support is needed.

Education bodies have reported needing further assistance with planning for students with complex needs, meeting respite requests from families and emerging counselling needs, and centralizing resources for educators that focus on complex needs.

ECE continues to work collaboratively with education bodies on continuity of learning for all students, including those with Student Support Plans and Individual Education Plans. Education staff are taking into consideration the needs of all students in preparing lessons, materials and resources for distance learning. Program Support Teachers work collaboratively with education staff to help design and plan for students by providing resources like learning kits and visual aids, connecting families virtually with consultants, and doing check-ins to ensure families feel supported and can reach out for more help if needed. Support Assistants that have not been redeployed have been reaching out to connect with students and families and provide virtual support where possible. Assistive technology is also being made available to households as needed.

A variety of resources for teachers and parents have been developed by educators across the territory, and education bodies are working together to create a centralized resource database to make activities and resources that support at-home learning for students with complex needs available to Regional Inclusive Schooling Coordinators across the NWT.

ECE is also ensuring the continued availability of remote counselling services for students during COVID-19. A total of 34 mental health counsellors continue to provide services to 47 schools in the territory, and all education bodies have been provided with a master list of counsellors in the NWT in order to ensure services can be accessed quickly by JK-Grade 12 students when necessary. Work is underway to ensure students in need have the technology to access counselling, safely and privately. The Department is also exploring ways to provide families with access to respite services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With ECE support and health guidance from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, education bodies across the NWT are maintaining food programs for families in need by supplying prepared packages of food, partnering with community agencies, sharing food funding or staff, providing grocery vouchers or accounts, and delivering takeout meals, depending on the unique needs and circumstances of the community. This flexible approach is proving successful, and education bodies are looking at ways to sustain healthy foods programming through the summer.

As well, an increasing number of requests for Jordan’s Principle and Child First Initiative funding continue to be made by individuals in the NWT and by NWT schools, for both this school year and next.

The next meeting of education leaders with Minister Simpson is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, 2020.


“Schools provide so much more than learning for students and families in the NWT; they provide vital supports and offer a safe and caring environment for many of our youth. This is especially true for students who require additional help, whether through counselling, learning aids, assistive technology or healthy snacks. For students with complex needs, the effects of school closures due to COVID-19 are particularly challenging. ECE is working hard to support education staff and families to access the resources they need for at-home learning and mental well-being during this difficult time, and ensure our most vulnerable students continue to receive the critical supports they depend on.”

-R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment


“For the bulk of our students, learning is moving forward positively. Teachers and program support teachers have also reached out to parents of students with learning difficulties to assist them in understanding what the schools have in place for their child, and how to translate that information into meaningful support for parents teaching their child at home. Assistive technology, software and material resources have been distributed to families. For all education bodies, the well-being of all of their students and parents is extremely important. Our goal is to be as responsive to all needs as we can in this new delivery model.”

-Simon Cloutier, Chair of Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, on behalf of NWT Education Leaders

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