A public meeting in Dawson about proposed changes to the school calendar went very well, said Sue Lancaster, chair of the school council.
Valerie Royle, deputy minister of education, attended the meeting Wednesday to address the community’s concerns about a proposal to lengthen the school year and adopt a common school calendar across the Yukon.
“We felt like we were listened to and are not going to be ignored,” said Lancaster. “What’s to happen, who knows? But we made it quite clear to her that our community is saying, ‘No.’”
About 60 people attended the meeting, which was also broadcast on local radio, she said.
The Department of Education informed school councils in December of their intention to standardize the school calendar.
It hopes the move will increase opportunities for distance education and improve student success in rural Yukon.
But some communities worry that the change will hinder the ability of school councils to develop a calendar that reflects their community’s unique needs.
Dawson, for example, ends its school year before June so that students have the opportunity to take advantage of summer jobs and recreation.
“We’ve got a 90 per cent graduation rate – that’s much higher than the rest of the Yukon – and part of that is probably due to the way we’ve got our school system set up,” said Lancaster.
Having a synced calendar with the Whitehorse schools might have some benefits, but it’s not the right choice for Dawson, she said.
“What we’ve got is working so well that those benefits are really minor for us, and we don’t know that it would improve anything.”
Initially, “This was thrown at them with no kind of consultation,” said Lancaster.
While the outcome is still uncertain, the community feels better knowing that its voice has been heard, she said.
The minister of education must set the calendar for the upcoming school year by the end of March.