Nunavik schools get back to work this month
KSB hires 65 new teachers this year
School is back in session for all communities in Nunavik, and almost all students in the region now have teachers.
The Kativik School Board hired 65 new teachers to teach French or English second-language curriculums, said the KSB’s public relations officer, Jade Bernier.
That’s after the KSB looked at about 550 applications from recruitment interviews held this past spring in Montreal and Ottawa.
But the school board still has to fill two vacant teaching positions in Nunavik — usually there are “an average of four ongoing vacant teacher positions” throughout the year said Bernier.
“The main reasons for turnover of teachers is parental leave and sick leave,” Bernier said.
“Throughout the Nunavik region, maintaining fully staffed schools remains a recurring challenge. In most of them, replacement teachers are simply not available.”
The KSB currently employs 395 teachers for roughly 3,000 students.
Not only is keeping staff in the schools a problem for the KSB, but keeping students attending on a regular basis is difficult as well.
The school board is examining a different calendar, however, which would “allow maximization of the winter hours, while taking advantage of certain periods of the year for traditional cultural activities,” Bernier said — that’s been a point of dispute for years between the school board and the union which has lobbied for a more “culturally-relevant” school calendar for its mainly Inuit students.
As for the cultural activities, these would also be worked into the school’s curriculum as well, Bernier said.
The KSB is studying the option, and the proposed 190-day calendar could be an option for the 2014-15 school year.
Bernier said the school board is also encouraging staff in Nunavik schools to offer after-school programs so that “students develop a sense of ownership towards their school,” which would lead to better school attendance.
The principal at Akulivik’s Tukisiniarvik School, David Loiselle, knows all about the problems of student attendance.
“We have had, for many years, problems with students leaving the classroom without permission, roaming the hallways, whether because they do not want to go to class or because a teacher is absent and no substitute could be found,” Loiselle said.
Students smoking during class time and going to the local store makes them chronically late, he said.
To combat this, Loiselle said the school has set up a prize system for good students. Staff give away gift cards, allow students to attend extra-curricular activities, and allow secondary school students access to a student lounge.
The lounge, which will open later in the year, will be decked out with couches, televisions and video games.
“This will further prevent students from roaming the hallways waiting for their next class,” Loiselle said.
And the school could use more room too — he said the school is in “dire need” of more classroom space.
“We have small classroom sizes, especially at the kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2 levels,” Loiselle said.
“Our 16 Grade 2 students have to spend almost all day in a 40-square metre [space].”
The school has sent an expansion report to Quebec’s department of education, leisure and sports, and Loiselle said he’s hopeful the badly-needed expansion will take place during the summer of 2015.
There are currently 184 registered students for Tukisiniarvik and 24 teachers.