North

N.W.T. gov't on track to reduce school hours this fall

On Wednesday night, MLAs had what may be the last of months of exhaustive debates on a bill that would reduce the amount of instruction students get from teachers by 100 hours each year.

Bill to make good on teachers' collective bargaining promise survives second reading

AnnaLee Mcleod teaching the Gwich'in Studies course to high school students in her classroom at Moose Kerr School in Aklavik, N.W.T. (CBC)

The territorial government is poised to reduce the number of hours teachers must spend with students, which comes at a time when graduation rates in small communities are as low as they were 10 years ago.

On Wednesday night, MLAs had what may be the last of months of exhaustive debates on a bill that would reduce the amount of instruction students get from teachers by 100 hours each year.

One of the few things the government and regular MLAs agreed on was that teachers in the Northwest Territories are overworked.

The MLA for the Sahtu said that leads to teacher burnout, which leads to lower student performance. Daniel McNeely said there's been 100 per cent teacher turnover in some schools in his riding.

'There aren't enough teachers'

But other MLAs said reducing the legally mandated minimum amount of time teachers must spend instructing students is not the answer.

"The major problem with this is that there are not enough teachers in our school system," said Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green. "The teachers who are there now are too hard-pressed to do any more, a point I heard repeatedly and which I don't doubt at all."
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green proposed reducing instructional hours by 50 hours instead of 100, but received no support from other MLAs. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Green proposed halving the proposed reduction in instructional hours, but it received no support from other MLAs.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly proposed having an independent review of student performance after two years of reduced hours, but that also did not get the required support.

Part of the same bill made junior kindergarten mandatory for all schools in the Northwest Territories next year.

Despite a number of concerns about a lack of funding for that expansion, the bill is proceeding with no commitments to provide additional funding beyond what the government has already committed.

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