Parents say Iqaluit’s French-language school leaving them in the dark

“We want to assure you there is no crisis,” school board says

By SARAH ROGERS

École des Trois-Soleils in Iqaluit has struggled with teacher absences and shortages in recent months, but parents say they want to be kept informed about those issues. (FILE PHOTO)


École des Trois-Soleils in Iqaluit has struggled with teacher absences and shortages in recent months, but parents say they want to be kept informed about those issues. (FILE PHOTO)

Parents with children enrolled in Nunavut’s only French-language school say they’re not getting enough information about recent changes occurring at the school.

Over the past several months, administrators at Iqaluit’s École des Trois-Soleils have had to contend with a number of teacher absences and personnel shortages that have forced many staff reassignments.

It’s a problem faced by many schools in Nunavut, but Trois-Soleils’ parents say they’ve been left in the dark.

“As an MLA, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from constituents, and I understand there are a lot of concerns,” said George Hickes, the MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, who also has children enrolled at Trois-Soleils.

“Parents don’t know from one day to the next who’ll be teaching their children,” he said. “I understand that they can’t go to parents on every administrative decision, but there are definitely gaps.”

Hickes said — as an example — parents have received emails at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday, outlining a change set to take place Monday morning.

The Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut, which manages Trois-Soleils, has also cancelled the last two council of commissioners public monthly meetings.

Parents have now taken to local media to voice their concerns. Some francophone families have even taken their children out of the school, Hickes said, which “sends off alarm bells.”

“Parents are very leery about upsetting the apple cart, but they’re very concerned about the level of communication,” he said. “And frankly, it sounds like a lack of confidence.”

One of the staffing difficulties at Trois-Soleils appears to stem from its kindergarten program, which, as part of a three-year pilot project, the school has operated as a full-day program.

The Government of Nunavut normally only funds half-day kindergarten in the territory.

This week, the French school board said in a release that Nunavut’s education department “recently refused to provide us, once again, the allocation necessary to fund a half-time teacher position that would allow us to save the full-time program.”

In response, the school board is planning to meet with parents of Trois-Soleils’ kindergarten students, and also distribute a survey to all parents and staff at the school to gauge their needs.

“We want to assure you there is no crisis,” school board president Jacques Fortier said in the same release, which was issued in French.

The Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut has not yet returned Nunatsiaq News’ request for an interview.

In the meantime, Hickes said many parents have already taken the matter into their own hands by holding their own meetings and even circulating a petition asking for the resignation of certain elected school board officials.

École des Trois-Soleils, which first opened its doors in 2001, offers French-language education from kindergarten to grade 12 to about 90 students.

According to statistics gathered from between 2001 and 2010, the school boasts the highest rate of attendance in the territory at 90.6 per cent.

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