Beaufort Delta region feeling teacher shortage crunch, as positions remain vacant

Most students in the N.W.T.'s Beaufort Delta region are heading back to school next week, but the local school board is in a crunch to fill teacher positions.

Local school board confident positions will be filled by start of school on Sept. 5

AnnaLee Mcleod teaching the Gwich'in Studies course to high school students in her classroom at Moose Kerr School in Aklavik. Students in the N.W.T.’s Beaufort Delta region are heading back to school next week, but the school board is in a crunch to fill all its teacher positions. (CBC)

Most students in the N.W.T.'s Beaufort Delta region are heading back to school next week, but the local school board is in a crunch to fill teacher positions.

The Beaufort Delta District Education Council serves about 1,400 students in nine schools across eight communities. As of Friday, there were still seven vacant teaching positions.

Chris Gilmour, the council's superintendent of schools, says the region is feeling the same pinch that's been seen across the country: a teacher shortage.

"We're kind of a reflection of what's going on nationally," Gilmour said.

"We're no different than many districts across the country at this point. When a significant number of new positions come up across the country, that can have an impact on our staffing."

School districts in British Columbia have been scrambling to fill hundreds of positions in the weeks leading up to the new school year. Gilmour said that's had an impact — the N.W.T. has historically filled a lot of positions with teachers from B.C. because of its geographical proximity.

"That creates an added challenge for us, not just in the Beaufort Delta, I would suggest likely across the North," Gilmour said.

Push to hire local

Gilmour says the school board was aware that this year would be more challenging, as they've also seen a number of senior teachers retire.

This summer it published ads in national newspapers for job openings. There's also been a push to attract more teachers from the Beaufort Delta region and across the N.W.T.

"Some people that grow up in the city are not necessarily going to be comfortable coming up to the North. We certainly want people that have a good understanding of the population that we serve, the history of the area, the culture that we serve," he said.

"Trying to make all of those pieces match is something that we focus on and do the best we possibly can, but it certainly adds a challenge to the recruitment process."

Despite the hiccup, Gilmour says he's confident that all the vacant positions will be filled by the time students head back to class on Sept. 5.

With files from Alyssa Mosher

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