Beaver Creek school council resigns, citing staffing issues

All four members of the Beaver Creek school council have resigned in protest, saying that students at Nelnah Bessie John School are not being given the support they need.

All four members of the Beaver Creek school council have resigned in protest, saying that students at Nelnah Bessie John School are not being given the support they need.

The K-9 school in the small community is down to six students from 12 after two families pulled their children out of the school in January.

One family is even moving out of Beaver Creek because of the issue.

Shasta McNamara and her husband have lived in Beaver Creek with their two children for the past two years.

She said they were told about problems at the school from the start.

“We heard they were using

iPads with non-educational games, giving the children unhealthy snacks and not letting them out for recess,” she said.

“It was a free for all. My husband went to a few meetings and asked why the children weren’t receiving education according to the curriculum.

“It was brought to the attention of the superintendent but nothing was done about it.”

There are two staff positions at the school, one principal/teacher and one education assistant.

McNamara, a former school council member, said staff are over-worked and often have to deal with other tasks such as building maintenance issues or administrative duties.

They’re also dealing with some students who have learning disabilities, she added.

Last fall, she pushed for more staffing at the school but was ignored by the department, she said.

She ended up pulling her children from the school for the first time in October in favour of homeschooling them.

Then, there was a staffing change at the school and a glimmer of hope, she added.

But the situation failed to improve and she pulled her children a second time last month.

“They even sent someone from the department to Beaver Creek to see how things were going, and he admitted he’d never seen so many learning gaps,” she said.

McNamara and her husband are moving to Nova Scotia before the end of the school year.

They’re not the first to leave the community because of the school, she said.

Tristian Nieman, another former council member, had three children enrolled at the school.

When her daughter first entered the school about five years ago, Nieman noticed her daughter’s behaviour went downhill.

“It was being affected by being in the same class as teenagers,” she said.

“I brought it up and said it was important for them to be split up. But I was told we didn’t have enough students to have a second teacher.”

Nieman’s son entered kindergarten last fall. She pulled both her children from the school because she felt they weren’t getting a proper education.

“If they’re in Grade 3, they’re doing Grade 1 work,” she said.

“My daughter now struggles with math and reading. There isn’t enough staff in the school.”

Tired of being ignored by the department, both Nieman and McNamara approached the Yukon child and youth advocate last month with their concerns.

Soon after logging their complaints, an extra teacher was dispatched to Beaver Creek on a temporary basis.

But Nieman said that she and her husband have “lost complete faith” in the Department of Education, and they won’t be enrolling their kids in public school ever again.

Kate Todd, former chair of the council, said the issues have been ongoing for years.

She said she met with the school’s superintendant, Penny Prysnuk, last fall to request extra staffing at the school.

“I pleaded,” Todd said.

“My goodness, all of a sudden in January they can give us extra staffing. It’s unfortunate timing – why couldn’t we have had this in September?

“It’s too little, too late for some children who have aged out of the system.”

The council members’ resignations were meant to send a message to the department, she said.

“We felt inconsequential but by resigning we become important,” she said.

Education Minister Doug Graham said there have been difficulties with staffing in Beaver Creek in the past.

He hopes to get the school council back together again, he added, so the department can hire on a more permanent basis.

The department is also looking at putting together a working group made up of school council members from rural communities.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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