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Teacher housing crisis growing

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Resolution (Dec 08/03) - A lack of housing for teachers in Fort Resolution is being called a crisis.

Paul Boucher is even warning that Deninu school may have to close next fall because of the situation.

"Next year, we're guaranteed only one house for nine teachers," says the vice-chair of the Deninu Ku'e District Education Authority.

Currently, teachers are forced to share rented accommodation because there is virtually no housing market in Fort Resolution.

Boucher says the housing problems cause high staff turn-over and difficulties in recruiting. Students suffer from a lack of continuity among teachers, adds Boucher.

Fort Resolution teacher Kim McNaught, along with her three-year-old daughter, share a house with another teacher.

"The housing situation gets so frustrating that it's enough to get you to leave," McNaught says.

Deninu School principal Moh Odeen says all his teachers are concerned over housing.

"It's a major issue we all face, including myself."

Odeen says it would be good to keep the school's young and dynamic staff, but he fears they will be lost.

He notes that at the beginning of this year, the school's vice-principal of four years left because of housing concerns.


Problems finding housing for teachers exist in more than a half-dozen small and remote NWT communities, such as Fort Liard, Wekweti and Colville Lake.

At a recent South Slave Divisional Education Council meeting, Angie Lantz, a representative of the Lutsel K'e DEA, noted six teachers in her community are divided between two houses -- three men in one house and three women in the other.

"It just continues to become an increasingly urgent situation," Lantz said.

The SSDEC wrote the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in October urging workable solutions be found to the problem in small communities, perhaps by increasing incentives to local builders.

Boucher argues the GNWT should return to supplying staff housing for its employees. Assistant deputy minister of Education, Dan Daniels, says the department is willing to work with communities to deal with the problem.

"We try to work with the Housing Corporation to see what has freed up on a community-by-community basis," he explains.

"Some communities are more challenging than others."

GNWT staff housing ended in the mid-1990s, he notes, adding it would take a change of policy for it to return.

"At this point, there is no change in government policy."