The municipality is taking the first step in fighting an ‘education crisis’ in Fort Chipewyan and Conklin.
Wood Buffalo council met on Tuesday where they approved sending a letter of support to multiple federal, provincial, and regional politicans requesting an urgent meeting be held to discuss the situation.
In Fort Chipewyan, no students were able to graduate during this school year while around 12 teachers are moving away from the hamlet. In Conklin, they’re facing a 100 per cent turnover at their school heading into next year.
Speaking to reporters, Councillor Bruce Inglis says this has been an issue that’s plagued these communities for far too long.
“It’s not as if it’s something new but it has escalated to a huge point that we really need to address it as a community – something has to be done.”
Inglis, who lives in Fort Chipewyan, noted he left the community to get a better education when he was in school and also moved his family to Fort McMurray when his kids were starting high school.
He believes this will be an issue that will never be fully resolved, however, he adds there are opportunities to ensure today’s youth get a proper education.
“It will be something we will have to be aware of, address, and work on a continuous basis and not let things slide and not look at somebody else to carry the problem.”
Meanwhile, Conklin is facing a concern of whether Conklin Community School will be open this September as they prepare to lose their entire staff.
CEO of the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee Jeffrey O’Donnell says it’s a real possibility the school will be closed to start the year in September.
“I’m not an expert in this area but I do have an administrative team that I work for and I wasn’t able to put them together in a month or two – I had to go out, I had to find the right people that had the right qualifications and most importantly is that team works.”
Turnover at the Conklin Community School isn’t a new issue. O’Donnell notes the school has had 14 principals over the last 9 years.
As for a possible solution, Councillor Phil Meagher mentioned a plan that helped rural Saskatchewan deal with the same problem.
It consists of sending community residents to post-secondary school’s so they can get the training they need to teach students. This would help increase the teacher population the hamlets while also ensuring they stay in the community.
Moving forward, CAO Annette Antoniak plans to personally call Alberta’s Deputy Minister of Education on Wednesday to express the municipality’s concern about this education issue.
The RMWB has little say over funds and resources being provided to the district, Northland School Division, as education is a provincial matter.