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Cape Dorset residents concerned over new class schedules

Residents of Cape Dorset are concerned that new longer school hours are straining students and families, as the Department of Education struggles to ensure youth from the burned-down high school get the necessary hours of instruction.

Elementary students start early - at 7:30 a.m. - while high school students finish late - at 7:30 p.m.

Peter Pitseolak high school was burned to the ground in September and the displaced students have been taking classes at the elementary school. New, longer class hours are causing concerns, according to MLA David Joanasie. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Students who attended the Cape Dorset high school that burned down last fall are now feeling the stress of long classroom hours, according to South Baffin MLA David Joanasie, who is worried some students may simply cut classes.

"I think it's a concern that the community wants addressed," Joanasie said. "It's putting a lot of strain on families, just the daily routine."

When Peter Pitseolak High School was destroyed after an alleged act of arson, students began splitting time at Sam Pudlat Elementary School. The younger kids started early and finished at lunch; the older kids started in the afternoon and finished around dinner time. 

When the new semester started in February, those class times were lengthened to ensure every student got enough daily hours of instruction — as mandated by the territory's Education Act. 

Late hours may leave students drained

Now, instead of ending at about 5:30 p.m., Joanasie says high school students finish classes after night has fallen — studying from 12:40 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 
'I think it would be a tough schedule to uphold for any one person - students, teacher, staff," says South Baffin MLA David Joanasie about lengthened school hours in Cape Dorset. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

"Imagine going to classes for that amount of time. You go home and you're beat," he said.

"There's not much time for both students and staff to participate in social activities outside the school."

Joanasie also noted the elementary student early start time, meaning that families with children in both age groups have students at school from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m..

"I hope it doesn't affect student attendance," he said. "At the same time I think it would be a tough schedule to uphold for any one person - students, teacher, staff."

Education Minister Paul Quassa says his department is monitoring attendance levels, but did not have the numbers available when he was questioned in the Nunavut Legislative Asseembly Wednesday.

Education Minister responds to concerns

Joanasie says he and Quassa received a letter from the local district education authority earlier this month, expressing concern over the lengthened hours and asking for a meeting. 

In question period, Joanasie urged Quassa to consider coming up with a compromise, which would shorten school hours. 

Education Minister Paul Quassa says school days had to be lengthened so that students could meet the minimum number of instructional hours per year. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

He also urged Quassa to commit to a meeting with local educators. 

While Quassa did not make any commitments to change the hours, he did say he would meet with the local DEA officials via video conference as soon as possible.

New school still set to reopen in 2019

The department of education's tender to design, ship and build modular classrooms to Cape Dorset closed Monday

"If all goes well," Joanasie say the four portables will be shipped this summer and constructed in time for the next school year. 
Classes for high school students will be held in portables this fall, if all goes according to plan. This is one of three options for the modular classrooms. (Government of Nunavut)

Quassa says the modular classrooms should hold all of 115 displaced students and teachers. 

A new $34-million high school is expected to be built and ready for students in 2019.

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