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An anonymous donor is offering up to $15K to attract teachers to this B.C. school district

An anonymous donor is offering new teachers $10,000 each to move to the Central Interior and work in the local school district — with the offer going up to $15,000 if they choose to work in Lytton, the village ravaged by fire two years ago.

It’s part of what’s being dubbed a “welcome to the area” award, to School District 74, with the funds being distributed through a local community organization called Community Futures Sun Country.

SD74 covers rural and smaller communities to the west of Kamloops, including Ashcroft, Lillooet, Cache Creek and Lytton.

The award aims to place teachers across schools in Ashcroft, Lillooet and Lytton, each of which serve under 300 students.

SD74’s push for new teachers comes amid a wider staffing shortage in B.C.’s schools, which has seen some districts resort to hiring uncertified teachers to work on call due to a lack of certified teachers.

Linsie Lachapelle, the general manager of Community Futures Sun Country, said 25 positions were vacant across the three schools.

“We kind of thought, well, let’s think outside the box on a way to attract teachers to the area,” she told Shelley Joyce, host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

“Because I know once they move here, they’ll see how wonderful it is and hopefully want to stay and put their roots in.”

The award is set to be doled out in instalments, with 50 per cent of the award set to be given at the end of the school year.

For teachers who want to teach in Ashcroft or Lytton, the award comes with a district vehicle and gas cards if they want to commute from a nearby community, according to the school district. The award also includes a $7,500 relocation allowance.

“[Schools] are very much the heart of the community,” Lachapelle said. “It’s the way we keep our young families here that want to have kids.

“We wouldn’t want to lose the school, then we’d have to bus our kids out.” 

Lytton school one of the few to survive fire

Lachapelle said the offer was sweeter in Lytton as they had been particularly badly hit, when it comes to teaching shortages, following the devastating fire of 2021.

“The more I spend time in Lytton — it’s such a great community. The people are wonderful and I think anyone’s fortunate to move there,” she said. “They’re hoping to rebuild.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for somebody that’s either starting out or winding down and looking for a retirement area.”

An overhead view of a town where most of the houses are destroyed, next to a river and mountains.
The remains of houses and businesses that were destroyed by the 2021 wildfire are seen in Lytton, B.C., last June. Nearly all of the town was reduced to ashes, and rebuilding progress has been slow even two years later. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School was one of the few buildings that survived the devastating 2021 fire that saw most of the community burn down. It currently accommodates 122 students, many of whom are Indigenous.

Denise O’Connor, the mayor of the community, was a teacher and principal at the school before her current job. 

A woman with short brown and white hair, in a high-vis vest, stands among rubble.
Lytton Mayor Denise O’Connor was a former principal who says the Lytton school had staffing problems even before the devastating fire tore through the community. (Tom Popyk/CBC)

She said the staffing challenges at the school were acute even before the fire, and she had to step in to teach classes “for weeks at a time” as a principal, on more than one occasion.

“As a community, we are thankful to the anonymous donor for offering the incentive to come work in our school district,” she said. “It’s a beautifully renovated school and safe and welcoming for the students.

“Everyone hopes these incentives do the trick and applications come in. Our schools and students deserve to be fully staffed.”

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