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Yellowknife school board to hold town hall on junior kindergarten
Yk1 holding meeting so parents can learn how roll-out will affect programs and services, budget

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, January 13, 2017

Officials from Yellowknife Education District No. 1 will hold an open house on Jan. 24 to discuss junior kindergarten.

The meeting is intended to give parents a look at the 2017-18 budget and let them know what junior kindergarten roll-out may mean for the board's other programs and services.

School board officials say they expect the Department of Education, Culture and Employment will confirm an approximate contribution of $33.6 million to the board for operations in the next school year.

But board superintendent Metro Huculak said he is still waiting on a firm number from the government on funding for junior kindergarten.

"We don't know how JK's going to roll out," he said. "How much is that funding actually? ... As soon as we get the numbers, we will share them at the town hall meeting. We're in better shape than probably any other board because of our (higher) enrolment."

Huculak said with the addition of an estimated 145 junior kindergarten students, the board's funding will be based on 2,055 students enrolled in Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1) system for the next school year, substantially higher than any other school board in the NWT.

The controversial junior kindergarten program is being rolled out much to the chagrin of Yellowknife's three school boards, who insist it should be fully funded by the territorial government. The GNWT has said it will provide $2 million, leaving school boards to cover about $3.1 million of the overall cost. This is an improvement from early 2014, when the territorial government announced a plan to roll out junior kindergarten with no new money - the plan then was to fund the program by reallocating school board surpluses.

By fall 2014, cabinet responded to MLA and public pressure by halting the program so it could review its implementation.

Tram Do, Yk1's director of corporate services, said the board can't move forward on its business plan until it finds out the exact share of funding it will receive for junior kindergarten.

School boards have made it clear there will be cuts under the new junior kindergarten funding model.

Do said there is a grey funding area right now because not all school boards in the NWT have yet determined their junior kindergarten enrolment numbers for the next school year.

"The government only has so much money and they will distribute it according to the population in all of the NWT," Do said.

"How much they can fund each school board depends on how much of the pie you get. But the pie hasn't been sliced accordingly yet because the numbers haven't all be confirmed across the territory."

Do said theoretically under the new funding model a school may be forced to axe one teacher position. She said no decisions will be made without input from the school board, board officials, school staff and parents.

Board chair John Stephenson said trustees have resigned themselves to the fact junior kindergarten is going to happen next fall regardless of the funding model.

"The numbers keep changing. It's like trying to grab onto Jell-O," he said. "If there is a shortfall in funding, there will be a requirement for some adjustments that have yet to be determined."

The meeting will be held at Mildred Hall School at 7 p.m.

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