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Safety a main reason Jr. K students off buses
School board concerned about preparedness for new students in the fall

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, July 3, 2017

The South Slave Divisional Education Council will not bus junior kindergarten students coming to Harry Camsell School when the new school year begins in the fall.

The school board doesn't even expect the school to be physically ready for junior kindergarten when the next school year begins.

The council made its concerns known about Harry Camsell School, which previously taught from kindergarten to Grade 3, along with Joseph Burr Tyrrell Elementary School in Fort Smith, in a June 23 news release.

It noted that, while the Fort Smith and Hay River District Education Authorities have the opportunity to educate four year olds through the new junior kindergarten program, funding, renovations and busing remain areas of concern.

"For both safety and financial reasons, Hay River and Fort Smith will not be offering busing for JK students in the 2017/18 school year," the news release stated.

Concern about safety of three and four year olds on buses and at bus drop-offs, particularly in the winter, was pointed to as a primary concern.

The school board noted that while the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has offered to fund the cost to install seat belts for the children on existing buses, additional funding for more buses or more bus runs for more students and supervision on buses are not being provided.

"As buses in these communities are already operating at maximum capacity, and at a cost to the respective (district education authorities) that is already more than the funding allocated by the GNWT for busing, they are simply unable to accommodate the influx of new students, buses and runs," the news release stated.

"Schools all across the NWT are being asked to do more with less-than-adequate resources," stated education council chairperson Ann Pischinger of Fort Smith in the news release.

"We remain committed to providing the best possible education regardless, and that means focusing our limited resources on school programs and instruction."

The education council news release is the result of a decision made at its June 15 meeting in Lutsel K'e to update parents on the launch of junior kindergarten in the 2017-2018 school year.

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