Yellowknife school boards say students are unlikely to return to class as scheduled on Aug. 28 given the current wildfire and evacuation situation.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to start school on time,” Jameel Aziz, chief executive of Yellowknife Educational District No. 1 (YK1), the city’s largest school board, told Breaking: on Sunday afternoon.
YK1 teaches kindergarten through grade 12 and has a student population of around 2,200.
Wildfires in the Northwest Territories have prompted evacuation orders not only in Yellowknife, but also in the communities of Ndilo, Dettah, Fort Smith, Enterprise, Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Kakisa, and Jean Marie River.
École Allain St-Cyr in Yellowknife and École Boréale in Hay River from le Commission Scolaire Francophone Territories du Nord-Ouest were scheduled to reopen on August 28 and 29, respectively.
The French-speaking school board will meet with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment on Tuesday, but “I can almost venture to assume that students will not return to school on [those dates]said CSFTNO Superintendent Yvonne Careen.
Careen flew back to Yellowknife on Thursday after visiting family in Newfoundland, only to camp with her son for Saskatchewan on Friday.
No date has yet been set for people to return to Yellowknife, Shane Thompson, the minister for Municipal and Community Affairs, said during NWT’s wildfire update Saturday night.
The wildfire threatening Yellowknife from the northwest was projected to reach the outskirts of the city by the weekend, but weather and firefighting progress changed that outlook.
“We have to look at the situation,” Thompson said Saturday of bringing people back.
“This is about safety and there are a number of criteria that we need to look at. We don’t want to bring people back and have to send them back.”
In Hay River, the time frame for re-entry is weeks, not days, Mayor Kandis Jameson said Sunday morning.
Based on comments like that, “school won’t start on time. That’s very clear,” Aziz said. He added that he booked a return flight for Thursday, but “that probably won’t happen.”
Most YK1 students and staff ended up in Alberta, others in BC Professional development and staff training was supposed to start on Monday.
staff without computers
While the territory was able to quickly get 19,000 people out of the capital, the eventual return may take longer, Aziz said from Kamloops, British Columbia.
“We have to determine the safety of our buildings [and] reasons,” Aziz said.
“We have to have a basic number of staff back and then we have to give people time to prepare for students and families as they start to come back. Whether it’s a very quick return or a slow return, I think It’s too soon to tell.”
Some new hires may decide to “take their experience and training elsewhere” because it’s a competitive market, Aziz added.
Asked if virtual learning is a possibility, Aziz noted that people left Yellowknife with essentials and many staff members do not have their laptops.
“Public education is supposed to be a level playing field,” he said.
Breaking: also contacted Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS), the Southern Slave Division Board of Education, the Dettah District Education Authority and the Ndilǫ District Education Authority about their plans.
YCS said in a letter to parents on Thursday it was too soon to tell if their schools would be ready to open on August 28.