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N.W.T.'s South Slave schools not ready for junior kindergarten, warns school board

Tenders still not issued for renovations needed before younger children arrive

Jimmy Thomson - CBC News

June 27, 2017

Additional costs for school busses, as well as contracts not being put out to tender, are among the reasons the South Slave Divisional Education Council is saying it may not be ready to roll out junior kindergarten in time for 2017/2018. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The South Slave Divisional Education Council says it doesn't think schools will be ready for when junior kindergarten rolls out across the N.W.T. for the 2017/2018 school year.

Renovations are needed for bathrooms and classrooms to make them accessible to the incoming three-and-a-half- and four-year-olds, but the territory's department of education hasn't yet issued tenders for the work to be done. 

"It was originally promised that these renovations would occur this summer and be ready before the start of school in September, but it's now clear that the timeline will be tight, if not impossible, given that the tenders have yet to go out," says Kandis Jameson, a board member for the Hay River District Education Authority.

"The department really needed to have their ducks in a row before they rolled this out, and our board does not feel that that is the way this has happened."

Bathrooms are a special concern, with the smaller bodies needing lower toilets and sinks.

"They need to be able to reach the sink, or reach the toilets, right?" says Jameson.

Some classrooms will also need to be combined to make larger rooms for the more active classes, but as of Monday evening, there are no tenders for these renovations currently posted to the territory's contracts website. 

The South Slave Divisional Education Council also says it will not be offering bussing to junior kindergarten students in Fort Smith or Hay River due to "safety and financial reasons," pointing to the same lack of extra resources they say are necessary, like more supervision on buses, and extra bus runs to accommodate new students. 

Seat belts would also be required — a cost the education department did offer to cover — but the South Slave school board says the added costs still put too much strain to their budget.

The school board is considering backup plans in case the renovations aren't complete on time. 

"We're a little frustrated with the process, but [we are] more than willing to take it on and do the best with what we have," says Jameson. 

The territory's education department did not reply to questions sent by CBC on Monday.

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