'It can cause chaos': Teacher shortage in northern Sask. prompts meeting with the province
Published Tuesday, September 10, 2019 5:54PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, September 10, 2019 7:00PM CST
A teacher shortage in northern Saskatchewan has prompted Northern Lights School Division to meet with the provincial government.
The division has 13 unfilled teaching positions, with most at Sandy Bay and Pinehouse, director Jason Young said.
"It’s not good, but we’ve been in a worse position – last year was worse. The reason I say that is because a number of the vacancies also have to do with temporary leaves," Young said.
"Still, having 13 down is a concern."
Young created a plan, submitted to the province, outlining ideas to recruit and keep staff in remote communities.
Part of the strategy includes giving teachers more incentives such as financial bonuses and subsidized housing.
"We want to invest more in teaching housing … more opportunities for internships for students to come up to northern Saskatchewan," he said.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) supported Young’s idea for more provincial funding to recruit staff.
"Thirteen is a lot," President Patrick Maze said. "It can cause chaos if you’re one classroom or a few classrooms short."
The Ministry of Education said it’s aware of the staffing struggles in the north, and received Young’s document.
A meeting between the school division and provincial government is scheduled for later this week.
What’s behind the teacher shortage?
Young said the teacher shortage in northern Saskatchewan has been ongoing the past several years.
The STF said many recent graduates from Saskatoon, and other provinces, turn to jobs in Northern Saskatchewan as a way to get experience.
"In some situations they get up there … and it’s a bit of a culture shock for those teachers, so they end up choosing to leave to their home communities," Maze told CTV News.
Maze said changes to the Northern Teachers Education Program (NORTEP) could also be a factor to the shortage.
Two years ago, as a part of budget cuts, the government scaled back the provincially-funded program which trained people from the north to teach in their own community.
At the University of Saskatchewan, Jay Wilson, the department head at the College of Education, said the best way to tackle the staffing scrambles in the north is to hire people who live there.
"I still think being in community and delivering programming in community is the greatest single effort we can make so northerners teach northerners. People can learn where they live," Wilson said.