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Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

MAD has already done enough; time for YG to compromise

The following is a letter originally sent to the Department of Education earlier this month.

First of all, thank you all for welcoming our small MAD contingent into the Legislature yesterday. It was a great learning experience for us all.

Secondly — yes, here I am yet again. Believe me, if you’re getting tired of hearing from me, rest assured that I am equally as tired of writing. I have a busy life outside of MAD and I’d much rather be doing some of my more rewarding and fun activities.

But I am totally dedicated to the MAD kids past, present and, most importantly, future.

After hearing the government responses to the latest of the difficulties heaped on MAD, I got the possibly mistaken impression that — although the program had a storage space that they had been assured would be safe, that was breached and emptied; although many, many props, costumes, set pieces, sentimental memorabilia, and valuable tools had been dumped randomly in a new storage space; although all this happened without the teachers’ knowledge and assistance— the government views MAD as being unreasonable and petulant and unwilling to adapt to the changes the rest of the world has endured.

Let me please point out the ways MAD has adapted since August:

They gave up their theatre, their classrooms and their workshop.

They had to entrust their valuable equipment to the good will and care of people they don’t know.

They have been moved to a single classroom — one that the students say isn’t even big enough to accommodate their entire class at once.

They have seen two of their fellow students drop out.

They have endured bullying by other students

They have lost a space in which to build sets and create and store props and costumes

And yet the teachers and students carry on creating and making the best of a challenging situation.

MAD has adapted time and time again, and my questions are:

When will the Department of Education adapt for MAD?

Why is MAD forced to adapt to the betterment of another school to the detriment of their own program?

The department has stated over and over and over that it is dedicated to the preservation and growth of MAD. Sadly, their actions show otherwise.

I beg you to consider the welfare of these students and to find a place for them where they can still grow and thrive in spite of all the adaptations they’ve made so far. I can promise you, it would be a big win for the government.

Mary Sloan

Whitehorse

Education department needs to listen

When faced with the acknowledged artistic jewel in the crown of Yukon education that is the MAD program (in terms of its continued nourishment of the Yukon’s phenomenal crop of talented students, its commitment to community and culture, and its amazing diaspora of internationally recognized graduates), the Department of Education need only to have asked, “What do you need in order to continue being successful?”

Instead, they have treated MAD as a small, insignificant part of their 5700-piece puzzle. They have not acted in a way that reflects an understanding of the unique needs of such a program.

They still have the opportunity to do the right thing and to listen to the stakeholders. The idea of housing the program at the Guild Hall or the Heart of Riverdale seems ideal and would certainly enhance the experience (well beyond the bounds of being bullied at Porter Creek Secondary School.) The department needs to swallow its rectitude and accept that the people involved with MAD know best.

I recall another Yukon Liberal government, about 20 year ago, that swore they were going to eliminate the arts branch. The community mobilised and did not relent in the face of ministerial certainty, and the plan was eventually abandoned.

Bravo Mary Sloan, Telek Rogan, Scott Kent, Kate White and everyone else who is holding the minister’s feet to the fire. Your voices should not be silent until the problem is properly addressed.

Eric Epstein

Whitehorse

Unusual Year, Unusual Solutions

The following is a letter originally sent to members of the legislative assembly, Department of Education officials and the Yukon Teachers Association.

“This is not a usual school year. The first consideration for planning for the 2020-21 school year has been the health and safety of students and staff and ensuring that all schools remain low-risk learning environments for Yukon students … We have had to adapt programming in order to follow the health and safety guidelines for schools, including adapting the programming …in order to ensure safe spacing, manage traffic flows, and limit the mixing of groups of students….”

— Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee on Oct. 7 in the Yukon legislative assembly

I agree with Minister McPhee, in a pandemic, school can not be done as usual. But more changes can be made to adjust to the current situation and anticipation for what might happen. Ask a teacher. Meeting the learning needs of a diverse student population means adjustments and anticipations.

I was invited to PCSS by a student on Monday to pick up some petitions. I had observed the empty classroom on Aug. 14 before school started and the class seemed small. The spacing and traffic flow are not good in the MAD designated hallway and classroom. The students do not have a lot of room. In a time of pandemic MAD is a large class so they need more room in order to meet the health and safety standards set out by the chief medical officer. I am not faulting the planners but as I said, in education adjustments in teaching situations happen all the time.

Moving the territorial MAD program to another location with more room will provide a room for class at Porter Creek Secondary School. PCSS would not have to share their theatre and other spaces with MAD. It is logical, especially if there is a change away from the current half day Grade 10-12 plan. PCSS will definitely need the classroom. It could be done before it gets too cold, as well.

After the fall Yukon Education start up plan was presented to the public, a few local places offered a temporary home for MAD students for this unprecedented school year. The Heart of Riverdale and the Guild Hall are two I know about. The Department of Education could revisit these offers and do a thorough assessment of the locations as to their appropriateness for students. Some of the federal school COVID-19 start up money could help provide any needed upgrades for the temporary location. If an off-school site was acceptable it would be a win-win. A local business or non-profit would have needed income in a time of pandemic and MAD students would have a larger space which would “…ensure safe spacing, manage traffic flows, and limit the mixing of groups of students…”.

Please consider moving the MAD program.

Kevin Greenshields

A MAD Parent

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