(SASKATOON, SK)  An historic agreement was signed today making the Whitecap Dakota Elementary School part of Saskatoon Public Schools. It is the first school on a First Nation to become part of a Saskatchewan school division.

Whitecap Dakota Elementary School provides education for students in grades pre-kindergarten through Grade 4. Students complete their elementary and secondary education at schools in Saskatoon.

The signing of the agreement today builds on the 20-year partnership between Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Saskatoon Public Schools.

“Our community and our children have certainly enjoyed the benefits of our partnerships with Saskatoon Public Schools to date and we look to build on that,” said Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation in a press release. “The agreement we are signing today is a product of our recent efforts, with the support and involvement of the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, to ensure Whitecap children have access to the same range of services as kids in Saskatoon, while continuing to receive Dakota language and cultural teachings.”

The First Nation school will be operated by Saskatoon Public Schools (SPS), but the Whitecap Dakota First Nation maintains jurisdiction of the on-reserve school. The school’s language and cultural programs also will be maintained and enhanced.

For students, it means that they will have a smooth transition from the school on reserve to the schools in Saskatoon.

“This agreement solidifies our many years of collaboration and cooperation with Whitecap Dakota First Nation, all of which has been focused on doing what is best for students,” said Saskatoon Board of Education Chair Ray Morrison in the release. “While this agreement formally welcomes Whitecap Dakota Elementary School into our division, it will lead to enriching opportunities for all our students and staff members. Public education is about being open to all and I am proud to lead our division as we take this historic step forward in that regard.”

“I commend Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Saskatoon Public School Division for making Whitecap the first on-reserve school to benefit from an alliance with a provincial school division,” said Education Minister Don Morgan in the press release. “This partnership allows Whitecap students to benefit from the same supports available in Saskatoon schools, right from Prekindergarten to Grade 12. By working together, these expanded learning opportunities will help prepare students for their futures, which is what putting the student first is all about.”

The agreement also means that teachers at WDEC are now employed by SPS.

Funds for the school on the reserve will flow through SPS. Any additional fund required for operation of WDEC will come from the Whitecap Dakota First Nation and not from taxpayers.

The four-year agreement runs from September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2018, with options to renew. It is supported with a companion funding agreement between Saskatoon Public Schools and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which covers the same four-year term.

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