Educators tackle low attendance at Paulatuk school

Educators and community leaders in Paulatuk, N.W.T., are urging more parents to send their children to school. Otherwise, they say, low attendance levels at their school could leave them with less government funding next year.

Educators and community leaders in Paulatuk, N.W.T., are urging more parents to send their children to school, orlow attendance levels at their facility could leave them with less government funding next year, they say.

Only 20 of the approximately 100 students at Paulatuk's Angik School showed up for the first week of classes in August. Since then, attendance has stayed around 50 per cent.

However,the schoolmay risk losing part of its budget if its attendance doesn't pick up this month. Schools across the territory are funded based on their September attendance, and students need to attend classes for at least 60 per cent of this month in order to be counted.

"The parents should maybe think very hard because it affects other children, too," said Gilbert Thrasher, chairman of Paulatuk's education authority.

To lose part of its budget may mean the school could not afford to have high school teachers next year, Thrasher said, meaning older students would have to move 400 kilometres west to Inuvik to finish high school.

"We don't want to see our high school children having to go to Inuvik because our funding was cut back to the high school teachers," he said.

Paulatuk, with a population of just under 300, is located 880 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife by the Amudsen Gulf.

But talking to parents in the hamlet — many of whom are often on the land with their children — about sending their kids to school can be challenging, school principal Russell Hancock said.

"A lot of the parents who have trouble getting their kids to school don't have telephones, so we can't call parents. We have to write them a letter or go to their homes and see them," Hancock said.

"Of course, teachers in the school find it hard to find the time to go visit homes. Plus a lot of parents don't want to see people doing that."

Hancock said some changes to the curriculum, including Inuvialuit culture classes in drum and mukluk crafting, will draw more students and parents into the school.

The school is also holding an informal get-together on Thursday, where Hancock said he hopes parents and educators can get to know each other a bit better.

"You really can't force someone to do something they don't want to do," he said.

"Now, of course, we've also made contact with parents, we're trying to do that. We're doing that through letters and through newsletters. We're also doing our school radio show, which we do broadcast once a week. That's all geared towards trying to encourage people to come to school."