Dawson art school gets bare minimum enrolment
Housing shortage an ongoing challenge to attracting students, say officials
Though it's managed to attract the minimum number of students for the coming year, the future of the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City is far from certain.
Just last week officials were worried they would not get the minimum of six students required to keep the school open. Only four had enrolled for the year and the deadline for the coming school year is Aug. 1.
Enrolment at the school has been declining for years. Established in 2007, the school allows students to complete the first year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.
Greg Hakonson is one of the founders of the school. He says the biggest challenge it faces is a lack of housing in Dawson for students.
"You know when a parent of an 18-year-old finds out that accommodations aren't certain or accommodations are you will be sleeping on someone's couch for two weeks and someone else's for two weeks, a lot of them just pull the plug."
Hakonson says originally the plan was for hotels to accommodate students in the winter months when the tourist season was over, but he says the hotels never stepped forward. He is optimistic Dawson will address housing for students next year.
The acting director of the school says, though he understands most students want housing arranged well in advance, no student has ever shown up for the start of the year and been unable to find a place to stay.
"Even when we were bringing in closer to 15 to 20 students, housing was then also a great problem," said Eldo Enns. "If you had the courage to show up in Dawson City we would invariably find you some housing."
Enns says the bare minimum for the school to continue operations is six full-time students.
The Yukon Minister of Education says the government is trying to find housing for students in Dawson, but wouldn't say what is being done.
"No one wants to see SOVA go forward this year and all years more than me and the department and this government," said Tracy-Anne McPhee.
"The program is unique, a cornerstone of the arts community in Dawson. It's really important that students have the best possible experience while they are going there."