Deputy minister says project may be delayed until 2009

Parents told to wait for Inuksuk reno details


Parents in Iqaluit have spent six months waiting to find out where high school students will attend class this autumn, when major renovations are to begin at Inuksuk High School.

At a district education authority meeting Feb. 19, parents were told to wait a few weeks longer.

Kathy Okpik, deputy minister of education, said a public meeting would be held in mid-March to discuss the options being considered.

That came as a surprise to some in attendance, who believed they had sat through an hour and a half of reports given by school principals in order to hear something new about the renovations.

Okpik said she was unable to offer many details because her department is still awaiting final approval of the budget for the renovation, which is expected to cost about $40 million.

The start of construction may also be pushed back, to either February or September 2009, Okpik said. Again, this should be more clear in several weeks.

The renovations are to take between 12 to 18 months. Okpik said one lesson learned from badly-delayed renovations of Aqsarniit Middle School last year is, "if we say 18 [months], it's probably 24."

The proposed renovations would see the school, which is almost 40 years old, stripped to its foundations and steel beams, with a new building, with wider halls and bigger windows, put in its place.

Nine options have been considered by the education department. Iqaluit's DEA says it's opposed to one, which would squeeze high school students into Aqsarniit Middle School during renovations, and stagger classes with some students arriving extra early, and other staying late into the afternoon.

The option currently favoured by government is to move high school students into portables, assembled on the Nunavut Arctic College property, until the renovations are complete.

One parent wondered why the government doesn't simply build a new school, and keep kids in the existing high school in the meantime.

Okpik offered two answers. The first is that re-using the old school's foundations saves money.

The second is that, according to the government formula that decides how big a new school should be, based on the number of students, a new Inuksuk High would end up being only two-thirds the size of the existing building.

Terry Young, Inuksuk's principal, said this would mean they would lose rooms such as the Tisi area, the metal shops, and other "things that really make us a community school."

Another parent said it will take more than bigger windows and wider halls to really change the school. To do that, it will need many more Inuit teachers.

The parent said she attended classes at the school in 1971, and since then, "not much has changed."

"I feel like an outsider," she said. "We need to do something quicker."

Another parent asked if the public meeting could be advertised. Most people at the meeting didn't hear about the DEA meeting until the day it happened. Okpik assured the small crowd the meeting would be well publicized.

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