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Late sealift, teaching vacancies pose challenges for new Cape Dorset school

Excitement has been growing for Cape Dorset's new high school, but the school's opening date has been thrown into question due to the late arrival of sealift.

With the sealift arriving weeks late, fixtures and furnishings for the new high school in Cape Dorset may not be installed in time for the scheduled opening of the school later this month.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Furnishings and various fixtures for the newly-constructed education facility were unloaded on Aug. 6, almost three weeks behind schedule, and that has ratcheted up the pressure on Kudlik Construction to try to meet deadlines, said Claude Constantineau, chair of the community's district education authority (DEA).

"I think the construction company has a good enough crew, enough resources in there, to get all the furniture and everything else installed but we're sort of waiting right now to hear back from them," Constantineau said on Aug. 9, noting that appliances, cupboards, trades equipment and various pieces of furniture are among the items that still need to be put in place.

"We're hopeful that we're still going to meet the (Aug. 27) deadline for the start of school," he said, adding that the handover of the school to the Department of Education was scheduled for Aug. 13.

An employee with Nunavut Sealink & Supply Inc. said sea ice cover caused the shipping delay.

Another hurdle in Cape Dorset will be the recruitment of teachers, according to Constantineau, who said he knows other communities are facing similar obstacles. The Department of Education needs to fill six positions at the high school, and the elementary school has four vacancies, he said.

"Last year we were short in the high school, I think, four teachers the whole year so that just added to the whole (set) of challenges... and that puts stress on all of the existing teachers and tends to create early burnout," said Constantineau, who is in his second year as DEA chair and third year with the organization.

The original Peter Pitseolak School was destroyed by fire in September 2015.

Sense of enthusiasm

Despite the stumbling blocks, there is a sense of enthusiasm about the new Peter Pitseolak High School, Constantineau said. The DEA's annual general meeting at Sam Pudlat School on Aug. 8 attracted more than 90 people, a much larger crowd than in the past, he noted.

"It's probably the most people I've seen at a community event in a long time. It was quite a successful event," he said. "There was good input from the parents and positive input in terms of the new school opening."

Another bright spot that the DEA is aiming to capitalize on is the Welcome to Kindergarten program, which got off the ground as a pilot project during the latter part of the 2017-18 school year. It gave pre-kindergarten youngsters exposure to socialization and preschool reading material in Inuktitut as well as other learning resources and activities.

"They (school staff) also distributed some of the books and put together a take-home package where parents could use that material to help prepare their children for kindergarten," Constantineau said.

Between 30 and 40 youngsters participated in the Welcome to Kindergarten program and he said he expects a similar number will be targeted this year.