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Communities seek new schools; GN offers renovations and other solutions

Getting a new school in Nunavut is no simple task. In Coral Harbour, district education authority chair Bridget Saviakjuk would very much like to see Sakku School replaced.

Air quality monitoring will take place at Sakku School in Coral Harbour until a multi-year renovations plan is completed. The school's heating and ventilation systems were upgraded late last year. photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

"But I know for a fact that we won't be given (a new) one. Our school is going to be renovated is what we're told," Saviakjuk said. "If we request for a new school, we'll be put at the bottom of the list."

Following repeated concerns about mould at Sakku School, which was constructed in 1979, the Government of Nunavut conducted testing late last year, found no health concerns relating to mould and improved the building's ventilation and heating systems. Ongoing air monitoring will take place until multi-year renovations and an addition are completed, according to the Department of Education.

However, before the schools burned down in Cape Dorset in 2015 and Kugaaruk in 2017, "we were supposed to be given a new school between 2012 and 2016," Saviakjuk said.

In Kugluktuk, where Kugluktuk High School, of 1968 vintage, is among the oldest schools in the territory, there is overcrowding. Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak made an appeals in the legislative assembly last week and in November to get a new school that can better accommodate the 222 students, rather than the existing building designed for a maximum of 203. Education Minister David Joanasie replied both times that Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik is only at 70 per cent capacity, so there is potential to move a grade from the high school to the elementary school in Kugluktuk to solve the problem.

Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq also made a pitch for a new school in Taloyoak last week, but Joanasie told him an addition might be in order to accommodate the growing number of students.

Cape Dorset students elated

The Department of Education's capital planning for 2019-2020 includes the new $40-million, 49,470-square-foot in Kugaaruk, which will hold up to 450 students. It's expected to open in August. The renovations to Sakku School in Coral Harbour and an addition to Iqauit's Ecole des Trois-Soleils are also on the books this year.

The new high school in Iglulik, which carried a $29.6-million pricetag, was supposed to open last year but a dispute between the GN and Quebec-based contractor FCNQ Construction over flooring deficiencies has created a delay. Iglulik Mayor Celestino Uyarak said he still hasn't been given an indication of when students and staff can occupy the new building.

In Cape Dorset, the new Peter Pitseoloak High School – built for $34 million and encompassing 32,000 square feet – opened in 2018, a year ahead of schedule. The experience has been extremely positive over the past five months, according to principal Allan Boyce.

"The excitement... has not abated. Students continue to talk about how great the new building is," Boyce stated.

The new high school features an atrium where students can eat breakfast; a full-sized gymnasium and fitness centre; a generously-equipped science room; a music room with ample instruments; a modern industrial arts area; a kitchen; well-lit classrooms; new desks, shelves and display areas for students' work and better acoustics throughout.

"The advantages of the new school range from the simple to the complex, and all of these advantages promote learning," Boyce said. "The facilities contribute to excellent teaching and create learning spaces in which students excel."

The expanded amenities in the brand new school also result "in better behaviour and increased respect between students and staff," Boyce added.

Conversely, asked whether rundown schools can be a detriment to learning, Joanasie replied, "We try to mitigate as best we can any impacts that the state of our schools has on our education program."

Fact file
Nunavut schools by year of build

1968 – Kugluktuk High School

1968 – Quluaq School (Clyde River)

1968 – Ataguttaaluk Elementary School (Iglulik)

1970 – Inuujaq School (Arctic Bay)

1970 – Inuksuk High School (Iqaluit)

1971 – Nakasuk School (Iqaluit)

1973 – Qitiqliq Middle School (Arviat)

1976 – Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik (Gjoa Haven)

1978 – Netsilik Ilihakvik (Taloyoak)

1979 – Sakku School (Coral Harbour)

1982 – Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (Rankin Inlet)

1984 – Nuiyak School (Sanikiluaq)

1985 – Qarmartalik School (Resolute)

1986 – Leo Ussak Elementary School (Rankin Inlet)

1987 – Quqshuun Ilihakvik (Gjoa Haven)

1987 – Tusarvik School (Naujaat)

1987 – Ulaajuk School (Pond Inlet)

1988 – Levi Angmak Elementary School (Arviat)

1988 – Rachel Arngnammaktiq Elementary (Baker Lake)

1988 – Victor Sammurtok School (Chesterfield Inlet)

1989 – Umimmak School (Grise Fiord)

1989 – Arnaqjuaq School (Hall Beach)

1989 – Alookie School (Pangnirtung)

1990 – Sam Pudlat School (Cape Dorset)

1990 – Qaqqalik School (Kimmirut)

1990 – Inuksuit School (Qikiqtarjuaq

1991 – Inuglak School (Whale Cove)

1993 – Kullik Ilihakvik (Cambridge Bay)

1994 – Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik (Kugluktuk)

1994 – Nanook School (Apex)

1997 – Ataguttaaluk High School (Iglulik)

1998 – Simon Alaittuq School (Rankin Inlet)

1999 – Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik (Iqaluit)

1999 – Attagoyuk Illisavik (Pangnirtung)

1999 – Nasivvik High School (Pond Inlet)

2001 – Kiilinik High School (Cambridge Bay)

2001 – École des Trois-Soleils (Iqaluit)

2004 – Joamie School (Iqaluit)

2004 – John Arnalukjuak High School (Arviat)

2004 – Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School (Baker Lake)

2011 – Paatsaali School (Sanikiluaq)

2016 – Tuugaalik High School (Naujaat)

2018 – Peter Pitseolak School (Cape Dorset)

Source: Government of Nunavut