Yellowknife school boards are moving full steam ahead with preparations for junior kindergarten this fall, with renovations underway at some schools and classrooms fully stocked at others.
“We’ve had a pre-K program, so with JK it’s going to be a smooth transition,” said Metro Huculak, superintendent of Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1). “We’ve outfitted all of our classes. We’ve bought all the supplies and everything.”
According to Huculak, the public school district is expecting around 120 to 140 junior kindergarten students to enrol at Yk1 schools for the 2018-19 school year.
The plan is to have three junior kindergarten classes at J.H. Sissons School, two at N.J. Macpherson School, two at Range Lake North School and at least one at Mildred Hall School.
“We’ve budgeted for nine classrooms,” said Huculak, explaining an additional class could be added at Mildred Hall depending on final student numbers.
The exact enrolment total at Yk1 has yet to be calculated.
Huculak said 18 staff will be dedicated to junior kindergarten if there are nine classrooms at the public district – one teacher and one education assistant for each classroom.
Yellowknife Catholic Schools, however, has seen more students enrol in junior kindergarten than expected.
As of Aug. 10, 98 students had enrolled in junior kindergarten at Weledeh Catholic School and St. Joseph School, according to Janet Toner, assistant superintendent of business for Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS).
She said the GNWT had predicted 88 students would enrol, and more enrolments are still rolling in.
At Yellowknife’s French school, Ecole Allain St-Cyr, numbers are lower.
Yvonne Careen, superintendent of the Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest, said approximately 12 students have registered for junior kindergarten so far.
It was estimated about 15 students would enrol, she said.
“For us, because the ministerial directive on admissions is in place from August 2016, we’re limited to the numbers that have access to our school,” Careen said. “Therefore our numbers would be more controlled than the numbers at YCS or Yk1.”
That directive restricts the French district from admitting certain non-rights holders if the school’s capacity is at 85 per cent or higher. Rights-holders have the right to French education outside Quebec because either their first language is French or they have parents who were educated in French.
Careen said one teacher has been assigned to the junior kindergarten class, and the school has classroom assistants who will support the young students.
Construction of an addition to Ecole Allain St-Cyr is also scheduled to happen.
“At the same time, they’re supposed to be building a washroom adjacent to the four-year-old classroom,” Careen said. “We are preparing. We’ve already moved all the furniture. The classroom is already set up. We were just waiting for that construction to take place.”
She said she is awaiting a reply from the GNWT on when the bathroom will be complete.
Similar bathroom renovations are happening at N.J. Macpherson and Range Lake North, according to Huculak, who said the work should be ready in time for Yk1’s first day of classes on Sept. 5.
The district is also considering extra playground equipment for the young students, said Huculak.
However, no busses will be provided for junior kindergarten students this fall, a decision the city’s three school boards made this spring because of a lack of funding and safety concerns.
Huculak said a committee of trustees and representatives from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has been established to determine if this can change in the future.