R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE), met with JK-12 education leaders Wednesday May 12 to discuss the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) announcement that the order requiring the closure of schools in Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndılǫ and Behchokǫ̀ would be lifted on Monday May 17 with new safety protocols in place.
Education boards confirmed they are examining the OCPHO’s new protocols this week to determine when they can reopen their schools safely for students and staff. Education board trustees will communicate their decisions to their Superintendents who will in turn inform school staff, parents, and students of the detailed plans.
Minister Simpson and the Board chairs were encouraged by the incredible uptake of the PfizerNBiotech COVID-19 vaccine among 12-17 year old residents. The vaccine was rolled-out last week in Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀ – locations prioritized due to the outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. Minister Simpson noted that there was no spread of COVID-19 to educational staff at N.J. Macpherson, pointing to the school’s diligent safety protocols already in place.
The Minister and the board chairs discussed the OCPHO’s new safety measures. The Minister assured education leaders that ECE and the OCPHO will continue to work with and support schools over the coming days and weeks to ensure a smooth transition back to in-person schooling. The Minister recognized the tremendous amount of work that goes into these transitions and he thanked education leaders for their cooperation and coordination during these challenging times.
Renalyn Pascua-Matte, Chairperson of the Dehcho Divisional Education Council, also provided an update on the significant impact of flooding on the communities of Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson, where the schools are currently closed. The Minister expressed that the immediate concern is the safety of community residents. He commented on residents’ resilience and said ECE staff will support the Divisional Education Council, schools and students in the coming weeks in any way they can.
“It has been a difficult year. My heart goes out to the communities in the Dehcho, particularly Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson, as they grapple with devastating flooding. ECE staff are ready to offer support. My office is working closely with the Divisional Education Council and the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs to ensure we’re doing everything we can.
“The successful pivot between in-person and distance learning over the past two weeks has demonstrated the true resolve of NWT education leaders, teachers, students and families in these trying times. I appreciate the enormous effort this required and thank everyone for their continued dedication to our students. I am also impressed by the many students who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and I thank them for setting an example for the rest of the territory.”
-R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment
“I am pleased that students will be able to return to in-school learning in the coming days and weeks. I am truly proud of how school staff and students have followed health and safety protocols to keep each other safe. They have continuously put safety first and demonstrated resilience. The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will continue to support the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, and work with school boards to answer any questions they have as they implement the OCPHO’s new safety measures, and work to get their students and staff back in the classroom.”
- Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer
For more information contact:
Manager, COVID Communications Operations
Health and Social Services
COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
Department of Education, Culture and Employment