March 30, 2023
John Haggie, Minister
Department of Education
PO Box 8700
St. John’s, NL
Dear Minister Haggie,
I write to bring to your attention some of the issues facing education in the Labrador West area.
Schools in the area have faced added challenges and unprecedented retention issues since the dissolution of the Labrador School Board. I worry that the further absorption of the NLESD by the Department of Education will once again leave Labrador West forgotten on the list of priorities.
I write on behalf of my constituents to bring to your attention, and urge prompt action on, some longstanding issues:
A.P. Low Primary School needs a proper lunchroom. Students have spent years eating cold lunches at their desks since lunchtime busing was cut. I’ll remind you this school was never designed for in-school lunches.
École l'ENVOL, built in 1960, was Labrador West’s first purpose-built school. The school community has been asking for a full-sized gymnasium for a number of years with no response.
All schools in the district are dealing with massive staffing shortfalls. They need teachers, instructional resource teachers, guidance counselors, support staff, maintenance workers, bus drivers, and custodians.
Menihek High School is in desperate need for the backlog of maintenance work to be completed. For example, some hallway buckets are celebrating their 6th anniversary of placement - along with many other longstanding issues.
We regularly hear about potential teachers who could fill some of these vacant positions but can’t accept the jobs because they cannot find affordable housing. The former Minister of Education assured me that government would work on the existing Teachers Apartments and add units in the empty first floor of the former Labrador School Board building. That work was never carried out; potential teachers can’t take jobs as there is no affordable housing in the area.
The CSFP has an extra challenge as, unlike NLESD, it does not own housing. In Labrador West, with our serious shortage of affordable housing, this is further recruitment hurdle.
These challenges have had, and continue to have, a negative effect on education delivery from the perspective of both the school staff and the students and their families. We know of teachers who have left the profession entirely due to the continued refusal of government to address these concerns. One teacher said to me, “If we still had the Labrador School Board it would not have gotten this bad in the region.”
As control over classroom and living conditions in Labrador West becomes more and more distanced from the region, my constituents and I are concerned that further deterioration of K-12 education in the district will continue.
I invite the minister to come to Labrador West and meet directly with the teachers and families. You could tour all four schools and see for yourself how dire things have gotten with the erosion of educational autonomy in Labrador.
MHA for Labrador West