School councils oppose calendar change

Some school councils are unhappy with a Department of Education proposal to lengthen the school year and standardize the school calendar across the Yukon.

Some school councils are unhappy with a Department of Education proposal to lengthen the school year and standardize the school calendar across the Yukon.

Sue Lancaster, chair of the school council for Robert Service School in Dawson City, says the changes could hurt student success in the community.

“We’re not being asked, we’re being told, with no consultation,” said Lancaster. “And yeah, it will change the way of life for the people up here.

“We are not Whitehorse, we are not the other communities. We’re Dawson. And Dawson wants to be able to make its own choices with regards to this stuff.”

More than 20 years ago, Dawson developed its own calendar, ending the school year before June so that kids would not have to choose between school and work or other summer activities.

The new calendar “showed nothing but amazing things,” said Lancaster. “The students were getting better marks, the students were attending classes and not skipping at the end of the year.”

But now Dawson has been told that it has to sync up with the rest of the schools in the territory, which will likely mean keeping kids in school well into June.

At meetings in December, Education officials informed the councils of their decision to standardize the calendar. In addition, the school year would increase to 191 days, up from between 173 and 181 this year, depending on the school.

Councils were provided with seven options on the school calendar, and have until the end of the month to provide comments to the department.

The minister of education must set the calendar for the upcoming school year by the end of March.

But with half of the territory’s schools in Whitehorse, some community councils feel their voices will not be heard.

The standardization of the school calendar is the first step in a number of initiatives to close the gap between student success in the communities and Whitehorse, said Valerie Royle, deputy minister of education.

“The benefits, we believe, far outweigh the work that it’s going to take to be able to adapt, for everybody,” she said.

“Thirty per cent of our students don’t graduate from secondary school, and that is completely unacceptable, and we need to do better.

“We’re trying to look at all the ways that we can make changes, from technology, to the school calendar, to course, to how teaching happens, all the way through to try and improve the outcomes of our students.”

The department hopes to increase the opportunities for distance learning in the communities so that students can take advantage of courses offered only in Whitehorse.

Currently there are four courses being offered in the communities by teleconference with Whitehorse, with a total of 16 rural students enrolled, said department spokesperson Paige Parsons.

Students virtually sit in on regular classes being taught in Whitehorse, and can interact with other students and the teacher.

There are an additional 47 students taking correspondence courses through the Northern B.C. Distance Education School.

The department would like to see more opportunities for teleconferencing, rather than individual learning, and the first step towards that is a standard calendar, said Parsons.

But Lancaster doesn’t agree than the benefits of a common calendar outweigh the pitfalls.

Between four and 10 Dawson students are involved with courses by teleconference from Whitehorse at any time, she said.

The students who choose to take those courses are willing to stay a little longer in order to get the credits they want, she said.

“They’ve all passed, they’ve all gotten the courses that they wanted, they just had to commit to staying two weeks into June.”

And a common calendar won’t make scheduling classes by teleconference much easier, she said. Unless all of the schools have the exact same timetable there will continue to be conflicts, and having the same vacation periods won’t make a huge difference.

Royle will attend a community meeting in Dawson this evening to answer questions and address community concerns.

The school council in Mayo also has issues with the proposed changes, said councillor Mark O’Donoghue.

“We really value the ability to meet community needs in setting our school calendar, and we don’t really see any strong reason that’s been presented as to why there needs to be a common calendar in the communities,” he said.

Setting our own calendar “allows us to respond to the desire for parents to do on-the-land activities with their kids, it allows us to talk with our community and find out what works best here,” said O’Donoghue.

While the department says the change has been in the works for years, the proposal came as a complete surprise to the Mayo council, he said.

“This whole thing has been very, very rushed with very little – with no, actually – talk in advance.”

Royle will also visit Mayo this week to address concerns about the changes.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read