Long awaited construction of Kitsumkalum First Nation’s school is underway with a ground breaking ceremony held on April 20.
The bid for the new 1,200 square metre ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School building was awarded to Vancouver Island-based CCM Construction Ltd.
While the estimated cost of the project has not been revealed, Phase 1 of the multimillion dollar project is jointly funded by the Kitsumkalum First Nation and Indigenous Services Canada. The First Nation will be contributing both capital funding and building materials for the school, it said.
Phase 2 will see the construction of a gymnasium in the future and efforts are underway to secure construction funding. As of now, the Prince Rupert Port Authority has committed to contribute $200,000 toward the construction cost of the gymnasium through their Community Investment Fund.
“The ground-breaking ceremony yesterday was a great day and an important milestone in this project that has been so long in the making,” said Kitsumkalum Chief Councillor Don Roberts.
The K-12 school building will accommodate 80 students across five classrooms. The building will be complete with a multipurpose room and office spaces.
The single-story wood frame school building is being built on a section of cleared land alongside the West Kalum Forest Service Road not far from its intersection with Hwy 16.
It will replace aged and inadequate structures now occupied along Spokechute Rd. where Kitsumkalum’s other public sector services are located.
The new location, which was cleared in preparation for eventual construction a year and a half ago, will include a bus loop in addition to parking and a circular playing field.
Students now study in separate but adjacent buildings connected by pathways, including Kitsumkalum’s former health centre, a building that once belonged to School District 82.
Roberts said the old school facilities are temporary structures that have reached the end of their serviceable life, and the new school will provide modern facilities for learning.
“It is extremely important for Kitsumkalum youth to be educated in their own language and culture,” he said, adding the school has three key focuses – culture, language and individual student support.
“The individual support means that no student is left behind – students weren’t able to keep up in the provincial school system and ended up left behind. At ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo, every student is supported.”
A design committee from Kitsumkalum will work with architects on the exterior design of the building.
The new school building is expected to be complete and open by September 2023.
– With files from Rod Link