School gym construction underway in Gitwinksihlkw

Artist’s illustration of the gym now under construction at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School in the Nass Valley of Gitwinksihlkw. (Illustration courtesy Nisga’a School District)Artist’s illustration of the gym now under construction at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School in the Nass Valley of Gitwinksihlkw. (Illustration courtesy Nisga’a School District)
Students at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary in Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley are enjoying a newly-installed playground. (Photo courtesy Tanya Azak)Students at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary in Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley are enjoying a newly-installed playground. (Photo courtesy Tanya Azak)
Foundation work to add a gym at the Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School in Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley is underway. (Photo courtesy Tanya Azak)Foundation work to add a gym at the Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School in Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley is underway. (Photo courtesy Tanya Azak)

Work has started on a $6.3 million gym at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary in the village of Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley.

The kindergarten to Grade 7 school was built in 1995 without a gym, meaning that students had to walk to the nearby Ts’oohl Ts’ap Memorial Centre.

“The Ts’oohl Ts’ap Memorial centre is a community center and from time to time, gets booked for workshops, grads, feasts, etc… and we are unable to use the hall for teaching purposes as the main floor is where we have P.E. or school events,” explained school principal Tanya Azak.

“Or in the winter it is very difficult if there is no clear path to get to the hall,” she said of snow buildup.

And, once finished, Azak said the gym space will also be available for community activities and events.

“We want to continue to strengthen the relationship between the community and the school,” she said.

Construction is expected to take until Sept. 2023 and while that means there’s a lot of noise, it’s worth it, said Azak.

“We are willing to endure the roar of the machines for the greater good. Our excitement is much greater.”

The gym is 552 square meters or 5,941 square feet in size with a canted wall or angled wall to cut off a corner and a corner window installation to allow a large amount of natural light. The roof is of cross-laminated timber — large prefabricated, solid engineered wood panels.

Its physical location is at the northeastern face of the existing school and is designed with an entrance lobby so that it is more accessible for community use after hours. The design also permits washroom facilities.

Gitwinksihlkw Elementary has 28 students this year and there are six staff members.

The school is part of School District 92 which has an elementary school in three of the four villages in the Nass Valley and a combined elementary-secondary school in Gitlaxt’aamiks (formerly New Aiyansh) which is the largest village in the valley.

A gym isn’t the only new construction at the school — students now have a new playground, replacing equipment that was at least 10 years old, said Azak.

“It contains a rock wall, rope net bridge and platforms, fast slides, balance beams and zipline,” she said.

“It also provides more opportunities to grow balance, motor skills, and promotes positive interactions between students. We love it! We also encourage community to utilize the wonderful addition.”

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