A decision has yet to be made about whether junior-kindergarten students will ride the bus to school next year.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1. surveyed parents on the subject in June and found demand for junior-kindergarten bus service is low, said Tram Do, the board’s director of corporate services. Likely, she said, 20 or fewer students would end up using it.

“When we made the decision not to bus for JK (this school year), and I think we got two phone calls,” said Do in an interview Wednesday. “Most parents drive their JK students to school. I know I did.”

There are safety issues to address before a decision on bussing children as young as three years old is made, said Do.

At about 23 per cent of students, or a total of 34, ridership among kindergarten-age students is low as well.

The three Yellowknife school boards jointly contract school bus services. The existing contract expires at the end of this school year, and Do hopes the tender for a new one will be issued around Christmas.

“The three Yellowknife school boards need to meet and decide if they want to provide busing for JK, and if they do, then it will go out in the tender documents,” she said.

There is already a funding shortfall of more than $200,000 in Yk1. For kindergarten-to-Grade 12 busing, and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment is currently reviewing the school bus funding formula. Do said the three boards have made a joint submission to the department that includes safety considerations, should bussing for junior-kindergarten students go ahead.

Mildred Hall to get artificial soccer field

Mildred Hall School’s youngest students will get a brand new artificial soccer field this year.

Material for the 60-by-100 foot field was ordered Wednesday morning and construction will take place from Oct. 2 to 7.

“It’s hard to grow grass where Mildred hall is situated,” said Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak.

The field will provide a safe place for students to play “basically year round” and will beautify the yard, he said.

Junior kindergarten students will have first dibs on the field because they don’t get as much access to the gym, which is primarily used by older children, said Huculak.

“This will be great for the young kids and they won’t be falling on little pieces of pebbles,” he said.

The field, made of artificial turf, will cost $33,400.

Schools make shift to LED light

The Yk1 school board is on its way to fully outfitting all its schools with LED lights.

So far, all of its schools have switched to LED lighting outdoors and in gyms.

LEDs last longer than other forms of light and the board expects the shift will lead to savings in electricity costs of at least 30 per cent. The new lights are also much brighter, said superintendent Metro Huculak in an interview Wednesday.

The goal is to convert all school lights to LED, but the changeover can only happen during school breaks.

More than $422,000 has been set aside for LED installation, but it’s unclear right now when all schools will be entirely LED lit.

“It’s revolving fund,” explained Tram Do, the director of corporate services. “As we save more money in utilities, we get to put it in that fund.”

Major light installations are set to take place over spring break and next summer.

Yk1 gets clean bill of financial health

The Yk1 school board is in a very good financial position, according to Tram Do, director of corporate services at Yellowknife Education District No. 1.

The board’s 2017 financial statements show revenue exceeded budget estimates by $427,000, and was up more than $906,000 from from 2016. This is mainly due to extra funding from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and an increase in the property tax grant to schools to account for higher enrolment.

About 86 per cent of expenditures in 2017 were spent directly on students and classroom activities. The remaining 15 per cent went toward administration.

The school board has an accumulated surplus $1.5 million, which is about 4.3 per cent of the overall budget ($35.6 million).

An independent audit of Yk1’s financial position, as of June 30, found the books were in order, according to Canadian public sector accounting standards.