The N.W.T. government has cancelled winter diploma exams for Grade 12 students because of the "current state of the pandemic," but now some are calling for similar provisions to be made for other students.
"I think it would definitely be a lot safer and more fair if they cancel the exams for everyone," said Stella Fairman, a Grade 9 student at École St. Patrick High School. "I think it would be really dangerous if we go back just because there's been so many cases."
Students throughout the territory haven't returned to class yet — the territory's Education, Culture and Employment Department (ECE) pushed the start of classes back to Jan. 10.
Late Thursday, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer recommended that schools in Aklavik, Behchokǫ̀, Fort Providence, Hay River, Whatì, Yellowknife, Ndilǫ and Dettah shift to remote learning, and said more communities are expected to be added to that list in the coming days.
Anonymous petition launched
An anonymous petition with more than 300 signatures as of Friday morning is calling on Yellowknife Education District #1 to "cancel exams."
It doesn't say which exams, exactly, should be cancelled — but it does note that exams for Grades 9 through 11 are "still going ahead as usual, with them being worth 25 to 30 per cent of a final grade."
"We believe that the district should use the time that would be exam session to properly finish all course material and revision as well as prioritizing students' and teachers' mental health during this stressful time," it states.
Fairman said she's seen the petition, and she would sign it. She is expecting to write Alberta Achievement Tests (AATs) and her midterms during two weeks in the last two weeks of January, but hasn't received a schedule yet.
"Before we left for break, all my teachers were telling us they'd be posted ... In the hallways, they'd have pieces of paper with your grade and when your exams were supposed to be."
Jennifer Rae, ECE's acting director of curriculum development and student assessment, said the department didn't want Grade 12 students to feel like they are being "unfairly assessed" when they may not have had enough time in class to learn exam material thoroughly.
"We're hoping this relieves some of the stress high school students might be feeling during this time, especially our Grade 12 students, going into that final year of school," she said.
Optional winter diplomas later this year
A statement from the department issued Wednesday said Grade 12 students' school marks would stand for 100 per cent of their overall marks. Rae said Grade 12 students would have the option of writing their exams during sessions that are scheduled to take place later in the year.
"I think diploma exams are the most pressing," said Rae, when asked why Grade 12s were being considered differently than other grades.
"The first diploma exam was scheduled to be written on Jan. 11, whereas AATs are usually scheduled in April so there's a little bit more time."
AATs, like diploma exams, are a form of standardized test written by Grade 6 and 9 students in the N.W.T.
Although Rae said they're usually scheduled in April, Rae also said there was a session for students in Yellowknife scheduled in January.
Rae said the department was discussing what to do with AATs but, at the time of an interview Thursday afternoon said "there hasn't been a decision from the department to cancel those."