Bussing for JK students will not be offered in Fort Smith and Hay River
FORT SMITH, NT – At the most recent meeting of the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) in Lutsel K’e on June 15, 2017, motion was made to issue a press release updating parents in Fort Smith and Hay River on a few items related to the launch of Junior Kindergarten (JK) in the upcoming 2017/18 school year.
While the Fort Smith and Hay River DEAs have the opportunity to educate four-year-olds through the new JK program, funding, renovations, and bussing remain areas of concern:
Harry Camsell School in Hay River and Joseph B. Tyrrell (JBT) Elementary School in Fort Smith have been approved for renovations to upgrade facilities, namely bathroom facilities, that can accommodate more and younger students (3-and-a-half, and 4-year-olds).
It was originally promised that these renovations would occur this summer and be ready before the start of school in September, however, it is now clear that the timeline will be tight, if not impossible, given that the tenders have yet to go out.
The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) and the Department of Infrastructure (INF) are reviewing the situation and considering contingency plans in the event that the renovations are not yet complete in time for the fall.
For both safety and financial reasons, Hay River and Fort Smith will NOT be offering bussing for JK students in the 2017/18 school year.
Concern about safety of 3- and 4-year-olds on buses and at bus drop offs (particularly in the winter) is a primary concern.
While ECE has offered to fund the cost to install seat belts for little ones on existing busses, additional funding for more busses or more bus runs (for more students), supervision on busses, etc. is not being provided.
As busses in these communities are already operating at maximum capacity, and at a cost to the respective DEAs that is already more than the funding allocated by the GNWT for bussing, they are simply unable to accommodate the influx of new students, busses and runs.
“Schools all across the NWT are being asked to do more with less than adequate resources. We remain committed to providing the best possible education regardless, and that means focusing our limited resources on school programs and instruction.” said SSDEC Chairperson Ann Pischinger.