Shifting enrolment is changing school staffing

Golden Horn Elementary school council asserts it was deceived by the Education department. In mid-April, the council was told there would be no…

Golden Horn Elementary school council asserts it was deceived by the Education department.

In mid-April, the council was told there would be no funding cuts next year.

“Here we are not three weeks later, being told that actually there will be a cut,” wrote the council in a May 1 letter to Education Minister Patrick Rouble.

“Disingenuous, dishonest or just downright disheartening and disrespectful.”

In September, Golden Horn will lose one teacher, decreasing from 13.6 to 12.6 staff positions.

In a face-to-face meeting with Rouble, members of the council were told that, “No cuts had been made at Golden Horn.”

 That was three weeks ago, before the council learned Golden Horn will lose one full-time position in the new school year.

The teacher is moving to another school where enrolment has increased, said the Education department.

Some schools are losing teachers, but others are gaining them, said Rouble last week.

There have been no cuts to the number of Yukon teachers, he added.

“There are no staffing cuts,” said Rouble in the legislature on Wednesday.

“We will have the same number of teachers in our education system next year as we had this year — we expect to see further changes in the number of students in our school system.”

Enrolment numbers are increasing or shrinking depending on the school, and the Education department is moving teachers around to account for the changes.

“We’ve seen some school populations go from 220 down to about 145 students,” said Rouble.

“Those are the realities in our school system. The system has to adjust. We will see additional staffing increases at the schools seeing pressure.”

The government needs to respond to the growing enrolment at Whitehorse Elementary and Elijah Smith Elementary, he added.

While no teacher positions are cut, the Yukon Teachers’ Association is still concerned that schools with one less teacher than before could create larger workloads for those remaining.

“Teachers right now are working very, very hard and their day is very intense — there’s a lot of work,” said president Jim Tredger.

“This might mean some schools will go to split classes and larger classes will increase the teacher work load.”

The association has been working with the government to alleviate the concerns, he added.

Six schools will gain teachers and six will lose teachers, said Christie Whitley, assistant deputy minister for public schools.

She wouldn’t say which schools are affected.

Moving teachers around is common, said Whitley.

“Redeployment happens every year because teachers need to follow the student population,” she said.

In 1997, Golden Horn had a student/teacher ratio of 19.8 students per teacher.

Next year, with one less teacher, that ratio is expected to be around 11.5 students per teacher, said Whitley.

The department understands parental frustration of losing a teacher, but the government is looking at the bigger picture, she added.

“People want everything for their kids,” said Whitley.

“Parents are advocates for their children at their individual schools, but there’s a responsibility the government has to all schools in the territory.”

While some schools may benefit from changing demographics, students at schools that will lose teachers will still suffer, said the Golden Horn council.

“It is very difficult to see how reductions in staff — which must translate into large split classes, reduced teacher attention to individual students with a variety of learning abilities and/or reductions to music, French or learning assistants — can have any positive effect on our children,” wrote the council.

In the fall of 2007, it asked the government to include new subdivisions, like Whitehorse Copper, in the school’s enrolment area.

The government is reviewing attendance areas.

“It is not clear why staff cuts would be made before the attendance area issue is resolved; at best, it seems shortsighted,” wrote the council.

“Unless of course you have already made your decision and, just as before, you are just playing political games with our council and parents.”