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Two other Yk1 schools on the table
J.H. Sissons and N.J. Macpherson schools also in 'facilities' proposal for French board

Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The territorial government is eying two other Yellowknife schools in its efforts to satisfy a court ruling ordering the GNWT to provide the city's francophone population with a school containing a science lab, gym and other features lacking in the existing facility at Ecole Allain St. Cyr.

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Schools in proposal

N.J. Macpherson

Enrolment: 256

Capacity: 374

J.H. Sissons

Enrolment: 215

Capacity: 341

William McDonald

Enrolment: 151

Capacity: 484

Yk Education District No. 1

A confidential proposal by the territorial government to Yellowknife Education District No.1 was leaked to Yellowknifer last December, which asked Yk1 if it was willing to transfer the underutilized William McDonald Middle School to the Commission scolaire francophone - the territory's French school district.

But Yk1 chair John Stephenson says the 'evolving discussion' with the GNWT now involves J.H. Sissons and N.J. Macpherson schools, which, like William McDonald, are owned and operated by the school district.

"It came about through the presentations and requests from the GNWT but at no time did Yk1 propose anything related to transferring a school, at no point did Yk1 agree to transfer a school or agree to any particular school," said Stephenson. "But the schools included in the conversations from the GNWT included those two schools."

The three schools have the lowest enrolment in the

district, with William McDonald at 151 students, N.J.

Macpherson with 256, and 215 students at J.H. Sissons, according to the district's superintendent, Metro Huculak. Allain St-Cyr currently holds 131 students, with a capacity for 160 pupils.

Trustees at last week's Yk1 school board meeting expressed opposition to transferring William McDonald to the French school district

but Stephenson said nothing has been decided yet. Stephenson said he has been speaking with staff from all of the schools.

"It was an interesting conversation and (staff) were concerned, but as I said to them, we haven't made a decision, we don't make any decisions in private, and we won't be making a decision without talking to our stakeholders," Stephenson said.

The school board is planning on having public consultation meetings in the coming months once a committee can be organized to plan them. Trustees agreed during the district's board meeting on February 10 that they would like the public consultation to be completed before the June board meeting.

The three schools operated by the Catholic school board are all operating close to capacity, therefore they weren't looked at for the proposal, Stephenson speculated.

"We're forming the working group over this next week, and as a board we've proposed a time schedule but it'd be up to the working group to look at their calendars and look at the work that needs to be done," Stephenson said.

"I view this as a positive thing that we'll be engaging with the schools and staff and parents."

According to Joanne McGrath, acting director of education operations and development with the GNWT, a school transfer would save Yk1 money.

"What they would lose if they decided to transfer a school would be the responsibility of having to pay operations and maintenance (for the transferred building)," said McGrath.

Without a transfer, the GNWT has no choice other than to expand francophone schools at an estimated cost of $28 million.

If Yk1 approves the transfer, however, the government would only have to spend $2 million between one in Yellowknife and another transferred to the French school district in Hay River.

The $2 million would be used to make changes to the schools the GNWT acquired to make them suitable for kindergarten to Grade 12, as opposed to the current age range of the schools.

The GNWT needs a decision on the proposal in time for the appeal date for their Supreme Court ruling, which is March 24.

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