Slipping through the cracks
Parents lobby for smaller classes, special needs funding

Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 04/98) - Yellowknife parents are taking their concerns about the increasing number of students who are reading years below their grade level to the GNWT.

Range Lake North school parent advisory group co-chair Darlene Romanko said she became particularly concerned after a teacher told a recent forum on special needs that 50 per cent of her Grade 8 class was reading at a Grade 4 level.

"What are they going to do in Grade 12," she asked at a public school board community liaison committee meeting on Tuesday evening.

The parents, with the support of the public school board, have started a letter campaign to get the wheels turning on their lobbying efforts for more funding.

"What we're talking about is basic literacy," said Romanko.

To achieve this, classes have to be smaller and more resources allotted for special needs students, she added.

Parents are petitioning for classes in Grades K-3 to exceed no more than 17 students per teacher, as well as an intensive literacy promotion program geared toward the lower grades. They are also asking that children achieving two grade levels below the appropriate grade be extensively coached at the public's expense.

In addition, parents are suggesting that the GNWT provide performance measures that evaluate student achievement.

"If you don't know how many kids you have with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), how would you know you're under-funded," said Romanko.

Public school board superintendent Ken Woodley agrees that more work should be done to help them determine their needs.

"We know when it comes to FAS we have more than Edmonton, Calgary or anywhere else," he said. "What we need is more baseline information."

Romanko said the parents have to take matters into their own hands for the good of their children.

"The parents think it's important -- we hear teachers' frustration, parents' frustrations -- (we're doing this) rather than just sitting back and saying deficit cuts," she said.