Wrigley school reopening in January, 2 months after it was forced to close

Classes were cancelled at the N.W.T. school in early November after two educators were transferred. They claimed they were verbally abused by students and community members.

Classes cancelled in November after 2 educators were transferred amid allegations of verbal abuse

Students at Chief Julian Yendo school are expected to resume classes in January, after two months at home. School will resume on Jan. 10, according to the local education council. (Submitted by NWT Teachers' Association)

By the time classes start up again at Chief Julian Yendo School in Wrigley, N.W.T., in January, students will have been out of the classroom for about two months.

The superintendent with the Dehcho Divisional Education Council, Philippe Brulot, confirmed Wednesday that the school will reconvene on Jan. 10.

Chief Julian Yendo School has been shut down since early November after a principal and teacher asked for a transfer and left the community. Both said they felt threatened after they were allegedly verbally abused by parents and students. The two educators are now teaching at Charles Tetcho School in Sambaa K'e.

The decision to cancel classes left some 24 students out of school, which normally operates with four educators. The education authority said they would need to hire a new principal before it could re-open.

Former principal returning

Now former Chief Julian Yendo School principal Blair Sellars will be returning to the school in January. Blair's wife, Leona, who also taught at the school previously, will be joining him to teach again.

Both taught in Wrigley for seven years before leaving earlier this year because of a housing issue.

They had an excellent rapport with the community.- Philippe Brulot, Dehcho Divisional Education Council

"I'm looking forward to getting into the routines of learning and being successful," he said. "We've had good experiences and good memories [in Wrigley]."

Brulot said when he asked the education authority about bringing the pair back, they were "very, very excited."

"They had an excellent rapport with the community," Brulot said of the Sellars.

Brulot said there will not be any changes to the school year as a result of the two-month closure. 

Resolution a relief

John Dempsey, the senior administrative officer with the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, said the community is relieved that the school will be opening in the new year.

Dempsey said fixing the issue took a collective effort between the band office, education authority and the Northwest Territories education department.

"I can't say enough about Minister Caroline Cochrane and her staff," Dempsey said. "She reassured us that things were going to happen [and] was overall responsive to the needs of the community."    

In meetings between parents, administrative and government officials since the school shut down, Dempsey said there was an emphasis on making sure parents are part of their children's learning, so that this doesn't happen again.

"We did discuss varying ways to support the community and its membership. Giving parents the tools to help with the education of their children," said Dempsey.

"We want to help keep some of the traditional values of the Dene people active in the community."  

The community is planning a gathering to welcome the Sellars back to Wrigely, soon after school starts.