'The only reason more windows aren't broken is that there are no more to break.'

Kugluktuk vandals frolic while school crumbles


Kugluktuk High School principal Gary Kennedy is angry and frustrated about a broken window latch that wasn't fixed before vandals pried it open, slipped in and ravaged a classroom on April 6.

The vandalism – which wouldn't have occurred if the Government of Nunavut had carried out promised repairs to the school – has Kennedy wondering what he has to do to get the GN to repair his run-down high school.

"Does someone have to step up and wave the white flag and say we give up? What can we do?"

Kennedy said the past two weeks in Kugluktuk have been memorable, because of a successful student exchange program at the high school and the community's annual Nattik Frolics.

But his cheerful mood vanished when he came into school on the morning of April 14 and discovered the vandalism.

"It's pretty discouraging," Kennedy said. "It's kind of ironic. The day after the frolics end we walk into a mess."

To enter the classroom, which is used for Grade 8, kids slipped through the broken window. They likely used pliers to loosen a clothes hanger that served as a makeshift latch.

Once inside, they plugged up the sink and flooded the rug. Then they filled garbage cans with water and poured it everywhere, including the teacher's desk and student schoolwork.

This isn't the first time the classroom has been broken into, and it's not the only window in school that's been broken.

A second double-paned window is broken from the inside. This also constitutes a health hazard, Kennedy said, and will probably be boarded up before it's fixed.

"The only reason more windows aren't broken is that there are no more to break," Kennedy said.

The windows on the school's doors are still covered up with plywood although Kennedy made repeated requests for repairs to the education and community and government services departments.

"It's not a priority because the school's still able to function," Kennedy said. "As long as we make do, everything's okay until we get broken into. It's all okay until someone gets severely injured. That's what happens when these concerns aren't addressed in a timely fashion."

Some repairs were completed in late 2007, when the school closed down due to a broken boiler. But despite promises that the school's windows would be fixed, nothing was done, Kennedy said.

And he's not hopeful any repairs will happen soon, even with this past week's break-in.

"This won't be rated like an emergency situation. It'll probably be six to eight months before anything gets done and our school will open next year with nothing being done. That's just the reality of what's going on," he said.

The vandalism has affected the mood in the Grade 8 class where some students told Kennedy they didn't feel like coming back to school.

The high school is already battling high rates of absenteeism among its 157 students, which it has tried to reduce by offering a strong sports program through the Grizzlies as well as other incentives.

Earlier in the school year, Kennedy attempted to tackle vandalism by bringing kids who had been caught breaking school property into the school a weekend to do maintenance work, such as cleaning bathrooms. That seemed to do the trick, Kennedy said – until last weekend.

The RCMP remain on the look-out for the culprits responsible for the April 6 vandalism, who were likely non-students who are small enough to fit through the window.

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