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Arviat school cuts hurt university-bound students, says mother

When Arviat losing 12.5 teaching positions next year, it will also lose all but one of its Grade 12 academic courses. Students will be able to take other academic courses by correspondence, but one Arviat mother says that's not good enough.

'Why have we not progressed since my graduating class?' asks frustrated mother

When Terri Angalik starts her final year of high school in Arviat, Nunavut, this fall, she might be spending much of her time learning through correspondence. 

Earlier this year, the Government of Nunavut announced that Arviat would shed 12.5 teaching positions, because enrolment and attendance numbers are down. Now, John Arnalukjuak High School will only teach one academic course: English. 

"That upset me," said Angalik's mother Laureen Pameolik. "For my daughter's future, she needs academic classes and, as her mother, I want her in the academic classes."

Nunavut schools offer both a general and an academic stream, but if students want to apply for university they need to have the course's prerequisite academic classes. 

The school says it will pay for students to take those courses through the Alberta education system using distance education, and it will provide students with a room to work in. 

"They'd still be in the class, but they would mostly be on their own," said Pameolik.

Pameolik knows how challenging that can be. 

When she took high school courses 24 years ago, she had to take distance courses and says "that was really hard to do," 

Only 7 academic students 

With low graduation and attendance rates, Pameolik says it's important for schools to support those students who are striving to go on to post-secondary education. 

"We want our Nunavut students to go away and do well," she said. "This is what my daughter's planning to do."

Pameolik has sent a letter to the Arviat District Education Authority expressing her concern. 

In it she wrote: "As a parent I do not agree that cuts should affect the students with the most promise to go off to college."

She says she's frustrated that Arviat's education system is plagued with the same issues she and her peers faced as teenagers, when the community was much smaller. 

"Why have we not progressed since my graduating class?" she wrote in the letter. "Why are there only seven academic students?"

Last week, a group of parents met with the school administration, who said there would be a support teacher in the classroom when students work on their distance courses. 

That's not enough for Pameolik. 

Next, she plans to take her case to Nunavut's Education minister, Paul Quassa, and other MLAs. 

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