Yukon's rural schools struggling, says Watson Lake school council

Watson Lake's school council is asking the Yukon government to "close the gap" between Yukon's rural and urban schools, saying students in remote communities are getting sub-standard education.

Letter to education minister asks to 'close the gap' between urban and rural schools

Watson Lake Secondary School is 'unable to meet students' basic needs,' under the current staffing allocation, the school council says. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Watson Lake's school council is asking the territorial government to "close the gap" between Yukon's rural and urban schools, saying students in remote communities are getting sub-standard education.

The school council sent a letter to Education Minister Doug Graham, urging him to set up a task force to tackle the issue. The group argues that the territory's formula for allocating staff and resources puts rural schools at a disadvantage.

"Just the loss of one teacher seriously undermines the ability of the school to offer a minimum, bare bones curriculum," said Shawnna Boone of the Watson Lake School Council.

The formula allocates staff based on the number of students at a school. It's intended to be fair and equitable, but it's not, the school council argues.

"The majority of rural schools do not have enough students to generate adequate allocation for a full-time principal, part-time teacher librarian, or in all cases a full time secretary," the council's letter states.

"It is a challenge for rural schools to provide an adequate range of programs."

Greater needs in rural schools

The letter says rural students often need more educational support than urban students, and the current staffing formula does not account for that.

"In [Watson Lake's] Johnson Elementary School, 42 per cent of the student population is in need of behaviour, social, and emotional and/or academic support. Watson Lake Secondary School faces its own unique needs of numeracy and literacy as well as social and emotional challenges," the letter says.

Both schools are "unable to meet students' basic needs," Boone said.

The school council's letter has also been sent to other rural school councils in Yukon, and Boone said she's heard a lot of support.

"We're all on the same page, we're all facing similar issues," she said.

Boone said the education minister has not yet responded.


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