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How N.W.T. schools will reopen in the fall depends on state of COVID-19 in the territory

The N.W.T. Department of Education is in the position of having to plan for the next academic school year without knowing what the state of health and safety regulations will be around COVID-19 when the time comes.

All N.W.T. schools have submitted plans for the next academic school year

N.W.T. Education Minister R.J. Simpson was in a meeting June 16 with education leaders to work on the territory's fall academic year reopening plan. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The N.W.T. Department of Education is in the position of having to plan for the next academic school year without knowing what the state of health and safety regulations will be around COVID-19 when the time comes.

The latest details on that plan come after a teleconference between Education, Culture and Employment Minister R.J. Simpson and education leaders on Tuesday.

According to a news release Wednesday, all schools in the territory have submitted reopening plans for the 2020-21 school year. Those plans, which still need to be approved, recognize the need for full-time in-person learning, but they also recognize that might not be possible when the time comes.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic situation and plans may need to change as new information or public health and workplace safety requirements are identified," states the news release.

"Education bodies are taking a flexible approach in their planning to account for a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, which includes measures to ensure schools are able to remain open, to the extent possible, if there are new COVID-19 cases in the N.W.T. and that, regardless of circumstances, students will continue to learn."

Those contingency plans include blended learning, an "approach, where students are learning part time in school, as well as part time at home or on the land." Distance learning will also be available where necessary, or if schools must temporarily close because of COVID-19.

"Schools will be taking a flexible approach that prioritizes in-person learning, while providing alternative options for continued learning to ensure our students continue to receive education while we protect the health and safety of students, staff and communities," Simpson said in the news release.

Details of the reopening plans, which will vary from school to school, will not be released until they have been approved by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

"Once our school plans are approved ... we will be able to share the details with parents, remembering that changes may still be forthcoming," says Erin Currie, chair of Yellowknife Catholic Schools, on behalf of  N.W.T. education leaders, in the news release.

Schools in the N.W.T. have been closed to since March as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers union and territory reach agreement

In a separate news release Wednesday, the N.W.T. government announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association.

"Both parties are pleased with the progress since negotiations started on June 2, 2020 during this unprecedented time, and are recommending ratification of the agreement to their membership and the Financial Management Board," the press release states.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the ratification process is completed.

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