Fully fund junior kindergarten say parents, school board

Marcy MacDougall voiced her concerns about what programs would be cut in schools. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/Moose FM)
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Junior kindergarten should be fully funded – that’s the message parents at the Yellowknife Catholic School board want to send to the territorial government to stop more budget cuts from coming.

RELATED: NWT educators want GNWT to fully fund junior kindergarten

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The Yellowknife Catholic School board (YCS) held a public meeting Monday night at St. Joseph’s to discuss the implementation of junior kindergarten next year.

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Chair of the board Miles Welsh says that YCS fully supports bringing in junior kindergarten; they just don’t support the lack of funding that comes with it.

“The money for junior kindergarten is not enough to fully resource the program,” Welsh explained.

The board has been tasked with finding approximately $2 million in their budget to address the shortfall, something Welsh says will likely see them have to cut staffing by 3.6 per cent.

“We will have to draw from our K to 12 programming, our admin staff, admin budgets – we’ll have to draw from everywhere else in the district to support junior kindergarten,” he said.

Current cuts not enough

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Superintendent Claudia Parker said the board is already planning cuts to staff at their central administrative office down to the bare minimum, but even those cuts won’t be enough.

YCS chairman Miles Welsh, left, and superintendent Claudia Parker answer questions from parents. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/Moose FM)

Five junior kindergarten classes are anticipated for next year, three at St. Joseph’s and two at Weledeh Catholic School.

Class sizes can go up to twenty students, with two early childhood educators per class.

YCS says they’re anticipating around 68 junior kindergarten students in total.

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On top of the extra 10 positions needed for new junior kindergarten classrooms, the school board will also have an additional busing expense of $150,000.

Buses with junior kindergarten-aged children will require smaller seats and mandatory seat belts, along with an adult supervisor for each bus.

Either the school board will have to revamp their current buses, or purchase additional ones to meet safety requirements.

According to Welsh, the minister of education has suggested the board “limit non-core courses offered” to make room for junior kindergarten, meaning programs like gym, music and literacy support could get the chop.

For mother of three Marcy MacDougall, that’s concerning.

MacDougall feels her family has been directly affected by cuts already.

Two of her children are students at St. Joseph’s. She says her son doesn’t have a gym teacher, and her daughter – who needs speech therapy – is unable to received that through the school district.

“I don’t know what can be cut next,” MacDougall said.

“My fear is that there will be cuts to gym, library, art, music and whatever other programs they cut first. There’s just no room for less funding the way the schools are now.

“Let’s fully fund [junior kindergarten] so the kids can continue working with the education system that they have.”

Petition

St. Joseph’s parental advisory committee’s chair Lori MacMillan-Gallant encouraged parents at the meeting to write to their local MLAs.

A petition that can be found online was handed out for parents to express their concerns.

“What do we need to do as parents? Take action,” MacMillan-Gallant said.

MLAs Julie Green and Kieron Testart attended the meeting.

Testart has since taken to Twitter to announce that he will not support a budget that does not fully fund junior kindergarten.

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