North

'The community is nervous,' band manager says after classes shut down in Wrigley

John Dempsey, the band manager with the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, says the community is scared and nervous about losing students to schools in Fort Simpson.

2 educators left jobs at Wrigley school, causing it to be shut down for 2 weeks

Students at Chief Julian Yendo School in Wrigley, N.W.T., have been out of class for almost two weeks. Two of four educators were transferred to another school in the region. (Submitted by NWT Teachers' Association)

Students have been out of school for roughly two weeks at Chief Julian Yendo School in Wrigley, N.W.T., because there aren't enough teachers for the school to operate.

Sarah Lennie, a special needs assistant at the school, said she was the only staff member there on Tuesday morning, as opposed to the four that usually teach some 24 students.

According to Lennie, allegations of students verbally abusing faculty has prompted the school to shut down for the time being.

I've been here since 1992 and this is the worse I've seen it.- Sarah Lennie, special needs assistant

A new principal who was recently hired and a teacher have been transferred to a different school in the Dehcho school district. 

"They just decided to go because there was too much negative stuff happening," Lennie said.

"I've been here since 1992 and this is the worst I've seen it," she said. "You know the kids test [the new teachers] out, and it just got out of hand." 

Lennie added some students claimed the teachers physically abused them at the school. The RCMP was made aware of an alleged assault in Wrigley, but the investigation concluded no assault against a student took place, said spokesperson Marie York-Condon.

The two educators are now teaching at Charles Tetcho School in Sambaa K'e, confirmed Philippe Brulot, the superintendent of the Dehcho Divisional Education Council.

Neither educator could be reached for comment.   

"There will be no school until the superintendent comes in and has a meeting with the DEA [district education authority] and parents," Lennie said. 

Band manager 'deeply concerned'  

John Dempsey is the band manager for the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation. He says he is "deeply concerned" the band office was not consulted on what was happening at the school.  

"It would have been nice to have the opportunity to at least help, we could have mediated, we could have done something," Dempsey said. 

Dempsey said he was made aware of the situation at the school when the plane arrived to pick up the teacher and the principal. 

"The community is nervous," Dempsey said. "What are our children going to do ... are we going to lose these kids and have to send them to Fort Simpson, like we do with our high school students?"   

Education department monitoring situation

Pam Coulter, a spokesperson for the N.W.T. Department of Education said it takes the safety of all teachers very seriously.  

Coulter said the department has been notified about the allegations and is monitoring the situation. 

"All schools across the territory operate within the Safe Schools Framework and Regulations and are very familiar with keeping their school environment safe for all," she said in an email.

President of the NWT Teachers' Association, Fraser Oliver, says in the collective agreement the employer has an obligation to provide a safe working environment for teachers.

"Under the collective agreement, the employer will make all reasonable provisions for the occupational safety and health of employees," he said. "We want to encourage our teachers to go to their supervisor and share their concerns."

Superintendent Brulot will be meeting with the education council and parents on Thursday to determine what it will take to get students and teachers back into the classroom.

He declined to comment on any details regarding the transfer and directed CBC News to the chair of the council. The chair also declined to comment.