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N.W.T. Education doesn't 'have definitive answers' on helping students amid closures

Schools in the N.W.T. are closed until at least April 14. The assistant deputy minister for the Department of Education says it hopes to begin looking at options to help students study from home sometime next week.

Department looking at options to help students study from home sometime next week

A playground in Colville Lake, N.W.T. As the Northwest Territories ramps up steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, education officials say they’re working to support teachers and students. (John Last/CBC)

As the Northwest Territories ramps up steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, education officials say they're working to support teachers and students. 

On Wednesday, N.W.T. Minister of Health Diane Thom declared a public health emergency in the territory. Schools in the N.W.T. will be closed until at least April 14.

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the N.W.T. As of Thursday at 1 p.m., 222 tests had come back negative, according to the department.

John MacDonald, assistant deputy minister with the territorial Department of Education, said they hope to start focusing on helping students study from home sometime next week.  

We don't have definitive answers on that right now.- John MacDonald, Education assistant deputy minister

"We're going to really focus in as a system again to look at what we can do to support, especially Grade 12, but students in general, with the supports they need to be able to continue their studies in some form," MacDonald said.

"However, we don't have definitive answers on that right now."

'All options are on the table'

MacDonald said those options could include distance education or homework packages for students.

"All of the options are on the table right now." 

MacDonald said they are currently focusing on helping teachers self-isolate or travel home if necessary. He said they are working with education bodies in the territory and the NWT Teachers' Association.

When asked about on the land activities, MacDonald said schools do have some capacity to provide this programming. Chief public health officer Kami Kandola has suggested going on the land as a good way to practise social distancing during the pandemic. 

"We'll have to look at what we can do to either track that to provide credit and perhaps to support it," MacDonald said, noting each education body is working on its own plans. 

MacDonald said it's still unclear whether schools will reopen schools after Easter or continue to remain closed, but they're preparing for either option. He said they are following daily directions from the chief public health officer and that school closures will be based on public health.

Written by Emily Blake, with files from Katie Toth and Kate Kyle

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