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Fate of some Aurora College instructors unclear

With enrollment to Aurora College's social work and bachelor of education programs frozen for the 2018-19 academic year, the fate of some faculty members is uncertain.

Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo
Shane Thompson hopes the social work and bachelor of education programs can be reinstated in some form after the Department of Education, Culture and Employment decides what to do with a report on the foundational review of Aurora College.

A foundational review of the college wraps up this spring, and the results could determine whether the Department of Education, Culture and Employment redesigns these programs, or eliminates them altogether.

A report on the foundational review, along with the government's response, will be released at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Aurora College is also conducting its own review of the social work program.

“As the reviews are not yet completed, no decisions regarding staffing have been made,” Jayne Murray, a spokesperson for the college, stated in an email on Wednesday.

“However, if, once the reviews are completed, changes do need to be made in the 2018-19 academic year, some instructors and staff members MAY be tasked with special projects (yet to be defined, as this is still hypothetical) within their current program areas.”

There are three social work instructors listed in Aurora College's staff directory, as well as two bachelor of education (BEd) instructors, two casual BEd instructors and one head of the BEd program.

Alfred Moses, the minister of Education, Culture and Employment, was not available for an interview before deadline.

Shaun Dean, a cabinet spokesperson, said Aurora College is covered by the GNWT's staff retention policy, and that affected employees will be “provided with options going forward according to that policy, depending on what other positions may be available and their own specific situations and preferences.”

The fates of the social work and the bachelor of education programs have been uncertain since early 2017, when the Education, Culture and Employment department revealed a $1.89-million cut to the college's budget.

At first the programs were going to get the ax, but after public outcry, the budget cuts were put on hold pending a $413,000 review of the college's operations, governance and the capacity of programs to meet market demands.

Moses has said social work and education were frozen because these programs had low enrollment and graduation rates.

However, the GNWT's Skills 4 Success report found teachers and social workers are among the most in-demand jobs.

Murray wrote that students in the social work program have until the end of the 2018-19 academic year to achieve their diplomas, or they can get assistance to transfer to another school.

The same goes for students in the bachelor of education program, but they have until 2019-20 to finish their studies at Aurora College.

Shane Thompson, MLA for Nahendeh, says it may not be so easy for students to switch schools, even with government support.

“When you talk to a single mother of two, or a single mother of one, taking the program, it's more conducive for them to be in Yellowknife then for them to attend school down south,” Thompson said last week.

He said it is possible the programs will be brought back in a different form.

“If we really want to make a difference with social work, and a diploma's not where we need to go, if it's a degree, then let's get a degree,” said Thompson.

“Yukon College does a degree program... that's an option. We just need to be giving our residents the best opportunity to be successful.”