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Haines Junction celebrates beginning of year under First Nation School Board – Yukon News



St. Elias Community School came together in a ceremony to ring in the school year.

Hundreds of members of the community of Haines Junction, also known as Dakwäkäda, participated Sept. 20 in marking a new era of education under the First Nation School Board.

“The message today was that the students are at the centre of our support, and the community stands around them,” Melissa Flynn, the school board’s interim executive director, said in an interview.

In January, the community voted in favour of joining the new school board through a school-attendance area referendum.

Eight schools made the transfer. All of the schools will continue functioning as public schools bound by the Education Act and delivering the B.C. Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum and graduation program, according to a Jan. 31 joint release from the Yukon government and the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate.

“We are happy to celebrate this critical step to build a better educational future for our people,” Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Steve Smith said in a Sept. 20 release.

“We are growing our school so every child has access to learning based on their own unique strengths; so more kids stay in school, graduate, and leave high school better prepared for life, jobs, university and trades, and ready to contribute to a stronger, healthier community.”

On the school board’s website, the programming, lesson delivery and assessment methodology will be tailored to “reflect Yukon First Nations’ ways of knowing, being and doing.”

“To succeed in this world, kids need to have one hand on the keyboard, and one foot on the land,” reads a quote on the school board’s website from Elder James Allen of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

The interim governance committee has taken on the work of the school board until trustee elections in the fall, according to the school board’s website.

Flynn said the shift gives the school board “shared authority” with the Yukon’s Education Minister Jeanie McLean over the school, wherein certain areas are delegated to the board and others are delegated to the minister.

Flynn gave a glimpse of what this change might translate to in the school.

“We want every child in the community to see themselves in the classroom,” she said.

“We want students to see the land that they live on, and the community that they live in, reflected in the classrooms.”

Flynn said each community will need to decide what that looks like, for example, when it comes to locally based posters and books that reflect the environment and the people that students live with.

READ MORE: Eight Yukon schools vote to join First Nation School Board

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com

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