Unlucky cohort to endure third year of disrupted studies in 2008

More misery in store for jinxed Grade 9 class


Grade 9 students in Iqaluit are a particularly unlucky lot.

Last year they lost two weeks of classes due to badly-delayed school renovations at Aqsarniit Middle School.

Next year, these kids face the prospect of likely either rising extra early in the morning, or staying at school extra late through Grade 10.

Inuksuk High School will close in 2008 due to major renovations. When this happens, it's likely that high school students will be sent to Aqsarniit Middle School, at staggered hours.

One proposal would have middle school students attend classes from 7 a.m. to noon, and high school students attend classes from noon to 6 p.m.

It's unlikely any solution will be popular with students entering Grade 9, or their parents, who have endured two similar disruptions in the past.

"Annoying," said Kakee Kootoo, 14, when told of renovation plans. Given the choice, he would prefer the morning shift at school, rather than staying late.

When Joamie school burned down in July of 2003, children the age of Kootoo were in Grade 5. That fall, he and classmates were squeezed into the middle school.

Three years later, construction delays at Aqsarniit Middle School, where a new wing was being built to accommodate Grade 8 students, meant Kootoo and his peers had to attend class at staggered hours, from 8 a.m. until noon, for the first two months of the school year, and lost the equivalent of two weeks of classes.

This was the first year Grade 8 students attended the middle school.

Until then, Grade 8s went to the high school – and had they been kept there for another year, they would have attended class at normal hours, but making such a change on short notice was deemed too difficult by school administrators.

The details of how students will be juggled between schools during next year's renovations has yet to be worked out by the Iqaluit District Education Authority, which, by the deadline of Nunatsiaq News this week, had not yet announced when a public meeting will be held to discuss the matter.

When $22.5 million in renovations to Inuksuk High are complete, the most dramatic change will be how much more sunlight students and teachers see.

Teachers in the school count themselves lucky if their classroom has a tiny porthole to let in a glimmer of natural light. Some classrooms have no window, and the school's narrow hallways are lit only by flickering fluorescent lights.

The renovations will bring wider windows, and more of them. Hallways will also be widened. And light will filter down from a large skylight in the centre of the school, down through an empty space where the library currently stands, to light up the main foyer on the ground floor, where students often play table tennis during recess.

The renovations should be finished by September 2009, when Kootoo and his classmates enter Grade 10.

But it will probably be hard to think that far ahead, to when renovations are finished, for members of the unlucky cohort entering Grade 9 this September, who face the prospect of being sent back to their old middle school next year.

The renovations will involve the demolition of much of the existing school. But the new school will be no bigger.

With the departure of Grade 8 students, the school presently has more than enough space for students, according to formulas used by the department of education to determine spending on school upgrades.

Inuksuk High, built in 1971, is Nunavut's oldest school.

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