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Wanted: more room

Dillon says education minister gave him hope

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Tuktoyaktuk (Apr 14/03) - Mangilaluk school needs space for high school students sooner than later.

The department of education says a plan is in the works to consider an extension to Mangilaluk school, but not for another five years at least.

For several years the community has been pressuring government leaders to do something about problems with overcrowding at the school.

And late last month at the Beaufort Delta leaders convention in Inuvik, Mayor Eddie Dillon said the minister gave him a little bit of hope.

"One of the things we are looking forward to is that in the department of education

five-year capital plan they put a high school or an extension to our school in the plan," said Dillon.

Sue Glowach, director of communications for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, confirmed the capital plan does include "funds allocated to start the planning process ... to look at an extension for the school" by the year 2007-2008. But she said there is no indication exactly how much money has been allocated for the planning process.

Commencing the planning process five to six years down the road is not soon enough for the community, said the mayor.

"Our objective now is to get it moved up faster than that, but at least it's in the plan," said Dillon.

According to Mangilaluk school principal Steve Moseychuk, about 230 kindergarten to Grade 12 students are registered this year.

The school was originally built for kindergarten to Grade 9 students in 1990. The Department of Education Culture designed the school for 330 students, based on 22 students per classroom.

There are 14 classrooms, three CTS rooms (a computer lab, wood shop and home economics room) built to hold 11 students each, and 17 teachers including the principal.

With 230 students currently enrolled, that's 70 per cent capacity, according to ECE capital standards.

"However if you go into the school and take a look you will see every room in full use," said Beaufort Delta Education Council chair James Anderson.

The school introduced Grades 10 to 12 about eight years ago. That's when the school board had to hire more teachers and problems with overcrowding began to arise. Now it has escalated.

"They are like sardines in there," said Dillon.

"We have even had students come to our (council) meetings complaining about it and we have to keep telling them that we are going to chase them and get the necessary resources to do it, but it's so hard because our government is in a deficit already."

Principal Steve Moseychuk said space is so scarce that the library has been converted to a classroom.

The school also does not have a science or art classroom for the elementary students. The language teacher does not have a room to teach in, there is no space for the physical education teacher, and no room for a special education teacher the school is expecting to get soon.

The main problem, according to Moseychuk, is the school needs a separate section for the high school grades. There are between 50 and 55 students enrolled in Grades 10 to 12 this year, he said, but it "looks like there will be an increase" in that number next year.

"Right now they (the grades) are all mixed into one and it makes it hard because there are different schedules and there are also different rules. So if they could make (Grades) 9-12 a separate entity, it would be much better.

"If we had some extra space, it would be great," said Moseychuk.

Anderson said he agrees the high school students should be separated from the primary and elementary grades.

"It's very important for high school students, in a social sense, to have their own area. There is no sense of a high school wing that is their own," he said.

All grades are using the same washrooms, eating lunch together and using the same classrooms.

Anderson said high school students don't always go to school for educational purposes, but for social reasons as well.

"So it is important that they have a sense of high school and I do believe they need their own instructional area," he said.

Every area of the school is in full use, said Anderson. The wood shop area has been converted to a career and technical studies lab (computer room) and the language teacher has also taught in there.

"The language teacher has become an itinerant teacher where she has to go from room to room because there wasn't sufficient space for her to have a classroom.

"Also, they no longer have a library. They needed the space for a classroom so they moved the books out," said Anderson.

Anderson said if class sizes are increased and a few teacher positions are eliminated "then everything will fit." But he doesn't believe that is a good idea because it could adversely affect the entire learning process for all students.