“Everyone is excited and optimistic about what’s coming. This is a positive step forward for us,” said ACFN Councillor Teri Villebrun. “With Northland ceasing to operate in Fort Chip, soon our Nations will assume control over how our children are taught.”
In a unique opportunity and partnership in Treaty No. 8 Territory with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis, Parkland School Division will assume operation of Athabasca Delta Community School, in Fort Chipewyan, effective the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
PSD has been invited to enter into this relationship alongside the three Nations as they work towards forming a Community Education Authority, at which time they will ultimately assume operation of the school. PSD will serve as the Education Authority in the interim.
“We are pleased to welcome the opportunity this new partnership represents.” stated Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief, Allan Adam. “It is critical for the future of our youth that their education not only recognizes and acknowledges Indigenous knowledge, wisdom, tradition and culture but also incorporates it directly.
“We are incredibly pleased that Parkland School Division will be taking over the educational services of our children and youth. There has been an education crisis in Fort Chipewyan for a number of years.” stated Mikisew Chief, Peter Powder.
Community leaders told RMWB’s council in 2019 that Fort Chipewyan had an education crisis,after the 2018-19 academic year ended with no graduates and a dozen teachers leaving the community.
As a result, low graduation rates and a revolving door of staff were ongoing problems. Some parents chose to send their children to family in Fort McMurray to attend high school. This includes Villebrun, who hopes more parents will now keep their children in Fort Chipewyan.
The First Nation and Métis leaders decided in spring 2021 that it would be best if Northland left the community, and began looking for a new school division to run ADCS.
Priorities for the new division include meeting community leaders and local families, and hire staff who want to be involved in the community. Land-based learning programs that teach Indigenous culture and traditions will continue.
The switch to Parkland and eventually a local education authority is being supported by Alberta Education. The 2020 provincial budget includes $23 million for a new K-12 school that can support up to 320 students.