Teachers returning to the NWT after Christmas break won’t be granted paid leave while self-isolating and must prepare lesson plans for the time they’re away from their classes, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) said on Monday.
“Teachers may submit requests for extended unpaid leave, and these requests will be weighed against the impact to the school operations and the priority to provide quality in-person education for our JK-12 students,” said ECE spokesperson Melissa Bannister.
Decisions made by educational leaders will take into account what their schools need to operate under normal conditions after the holidays, and the number of leave requests granted will differ in each community.
The president of the NWT Teachers Association (NWTTA) called the decision “extremely disappointing.”
“It placed educators in a position of choosing to be with family (or) mental health and their financial responsibilities,” said NWTTA President Matthew Miller. “Not all educators have the financial support to take this type of leave. We have individuals new to the profession paying off student loans and others with multiple dependents.
“Although we did meet and discuss the holidays and this policy, it was our goal to have it changed after hearing from members. We offered suggestions on what could be done differently but, in the end, it was the employer who selected to go in this direction.”
Educators had until Friday, Nov. 6 to apply for leave, and superintendents and principals were to decide by Nov. 13 who will be granted leave without pay after the break, Miller said, adding that not everyone who applies is guaranteed to be given leave.
Christmas break runs from Dec. 21-Jan. 1 for most schools in the territory.