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Junior kindergarten dropped in Fort Providence
Parents claim no consultation before decision was made

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 22, 2014

The Fort Providence District Education Authority has opted to discontinue offering junior kindergarten beginning in the new year.

The play-based learning program began in 23 communities across the territory in September.

In Fort Providence, an Aboriginal Head Start program ran for half a day,

while junior kindergarten ran the other half.

But it appears a conflict between the two programs has led to the demise of junior kindergarten in the community.

"My boy gets to go to school all day and he really enjoys it," said Mike Jarecki about his four-year-old who attends both.

He's one of several parents who spoke to Deh Cho Drum earlier this month expressing concerns about the way the decision to end the program was carried out.

That choice stretches back to June, when the authority originally decided it wouldn't offer the program once school started.

Terry Jaffray, superintendent of the Dehcho Divisional Education Council, said the council decided it would better to have the program in each of the schools it administers, which led to the split days.

Premier Bob McLeod announced a rolled back implementation of the program in October and education authorities were instructed to decide whether to continue the program by Dec. 15.

Education, Culture and Employment spokesperson Amber George stated in an e-mail to News/North that, since not all decisions had been submitted to the department as of Dec. 19, a list of how many communities have opted out of the program is not yet being released.

Parents in Fort Providence learned of their authority's choice at a meeting called for 1 p.m. on deadline day.

At the meeting, Jarecki got the sense that there was a sharp divide in the community between the head start program and junior kindergarten.

"I don't understand the reasoning for taking away the JK program other than there's this war between the JK program and head start program," Jarecki said. "I saw no negative impact of the program running in conjunction."

Jarecki said he was surprised by the announcement and annoyed by a lack of consultation with parents beforehand.

Shirley Gargan, the chairwoman of the education authority, said that the choice was made three days before parents were notified.

Gargan said she was told she couldn't speak to the media about the decision and referred questions to Jaffray.

According to Jaffray, who was not at the meeting or involved in the decision, the choice was made to drop junior kindergarten based on advice from the Aboriginal Head Start program.

Jaffray was told students attending both were too tired by the end of the day and the DEA felt having both was a duplication of efforts.

"It just doesn't seem that the best interests of the children are being looked out for," Jaffray said.

However, she said as superintendent, she has to respect the choice made by the DEA.

Marcus Asamoah said the process the education authority used to tell parents about its decision was flawed.

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