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Big year for a small number at Victor Sammurtok School

It’s all about boosting spirits and building enthusiasm for a fresh new year during the first few weeks of school at Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) in Chesterfield Inlet.

Declining numbers that might have the student population fall below 100 on any given day presents its own set of challenges, but they’re met quickly by VSS staff members on both sides of the blackboard.

Students, clockwise from left, Amber Aggark, Mike Simik, Adrianna Putulik and Davna Aggark, from Victor Sammurtok School work on a group meal plan and cost activity on Aug. 23, 2019, in Chesterfield Inlet. Photo courtesy of Glen Brocklebank.

The past few years VSS staff members have gone on a land trip to have some fun and get to know each other better.

Teacher Glen Brocklebank said the trip affords staff members the chance to get to know everyone outside of the school building.

He said it’s a relaxing, casual day of walking around, picking berries, looking at things and great coversation.

“Everyone just starts to talk, laugh and joke around,” said Brocklebank. “We share some food and experiences with each other and get to know people as people.”

The official first day of school at VSS was Aug. 15 and the 2019 graduation ceremony was held the very next day with six Grade 12 graduates receiving their high school diploma.

The beginning of school also means the annual launch of the VSS qajaq program.

Staff members at Victor Sammurtok School (VSS), back row from left, Michelle Amarok, Mary Makpah, Blair Tautu and Horace Palmer, and, middle from left, Linda Putulik, Kerry-Anne Gordon and Jack Gordon, and, front row from left, Doreen Mullins, Lucy Issaluk, Vicki Tanuyak, Ashley Tanuyak, Savannah Issaluk, Rob Humby, Glen Brocklebank, Alex Asfaw and Ana Leishman get to know each other away from the classroom during a VSS staff members trip out on the land near Chesterfield Inlet in August of 2019. Photo courtesy of VSS.

Brocklebank said only students in grades nine to 12 are allowed to participate in the program, which has left the program with a very small cohort this year.

He said the Grade 3/4 class has 26 kids, which is more than there is in grades nine to 12.

“We only have about 16 to 18 students in the high school right now.

“Our entire student population might be a little over, or a little under, 100 if we had every kid in our school.”

This year’s lower number of students has not affected the positive atmosphere at VSS.

Brocklebank said right off the hop all the students were brought into the school gym for a welcoming assembly.

He said after everyone was welcomed back, staff members went over the rules of the school with the students.

“The rules for our school are actually fairly easy,” he said. “They’re, basically, respect yourself, respect others and then respect the building.

“We do talk about what each of those mean because the concept of respect is quite arbitrary anyway, but we talk about what it means to treat yourself OK, treat others OK and take care of the school.”

Brocklebank said VSS has a new principal, Jack Gordon, who taught in Arviat for two years before coming to Chester for the next three.

“He actually has a background in music, plays what I would describe as a jazz flute and has already played a couple of songs for the kids,” said Brocklebank.

“And one of our other teachers is starting a guitar club this year. Our school hasn’t had a music program since Billy Gallant was here about 11 years ago.

“We have a big gap in what we’re offering our students but now, this year, we’ve identified that and are developing a plan to, sort of, supplement what we’re offering at our school.”

The opportunity to display the power of music presented itself quickly with the school’s morning playing of O Canada checking-out halfway through this past week.

Brocklebank said the new principal simply picked-up his flute and played the national anthem himself.

He said the move went over well with the students.

“All the kids were clapping and cheering at the end of it.

“We’re going to have a positive year here at VSS and everyone seems to feel it.

“I’m super-pumped for the start of a new school year and so are the kids.”