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Nunavut kids head back back to school

New school year means more educators and community counsellors in schools

By SARAH ROGERS

Classes at Iqaluit’s Nakasuk elementary school were meant to begin today, but rotating power outages across the city mean that Nakasuk, along with Joamie Elementary School, Aqsarniit Middle School, Inuksuk High School will remain closed until the morning of Aug. 31. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)


Classes at Iqaluit’s Nakasuk elementary school were meant to begin today, but rotating power outages across the city mean that Nakasuk, along with Joamie Elementary School, Aqsarniit Middle School, Inuksuk High School will remain closed until the morning of Aug. 31. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Schools across Nunavut are welcoming students at staggered dates this year, starting as early as Aug.15 in some communities, while for others, classes won’t begin until Sept. 6.

However, some students in the Baffin region may wait to see their teachers for a while yet: the Qikiqtani School Operations said its schools still had 12 unfilled positions as of Aug. 25.

This year there are more vacancies than normally seen, said QSO director Trudy Pettigrew, but that’s because the QSO had many more teaching positions to fill than usual.

All but one of the positions has been advertised — a job in Clyde River that will be advertised as soon as housing is made available.

But overall, as students head back to school, they should see more teachers and other instructors in school, as the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Education starts to implement its new student-educator ratio.

Set out under the Education Act, the new ratio is set to at least 14 students per educator, which means that for every 14 students, there will be one educator hired in the community.

“The new ratio will see an increase of approximately 60 educators across Nunavut,” said Peter Geikie, GN’s assistant deputy minister for education. “It’s a range of positions – local DEAs [district education authorities] determine the greatest need for allocation of staff.

“It could mean a concentration in literacy programs, or for new arts or trades programs at the high school level.”

In 2011-2012, students in Nunavut schools will also see a community counsellor [Ilinniarvimmi Inuusiliriji], a staff member hired by the local DEA to act as a liaison between the school and local families.

Under the Nunavut’s new education act, these new school counsellors are required “to provide personal guidance and counselling to students to promote a positive attitude to education, personal well-being, and healthy lifestyles.”

That includes providing activities that are related to study skills, suicide prevention, family planning, self esteem and conflict resolution, Geikie said.

“If they haven’t already been hired, [local DEAs] should be in the process [of hiring],” he said. “And all the hires are local, so they know the parents of the students and the community.”

The education department also continues to develop more Nunavut curriculum and teaching resources, he said.

One example: Grade 1 teachers will receive training on “family theme units” this year, which talk about the roles and responsibilities of family members and why families are important, and contain activities that involve parents.

The education department will also begin developing land programs for Grades 7, 8 and 9, building on existing cultural programs already offered in schools, Geikie said.

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