Nearly 30 years beyond its lifespan, Igloolik school suffers major maintenance issues

Cracked water tank, barricaded doors 2 of many problems affecting one of Nunavut’s oldest schools

A building condition assessment of Ataguttaaluk Elementary School in Igloolik is underway to determine the full scope of the building’s many maintenance issues, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said. Issues affecting the 55-year-old school include a cracked water tank that has been leaking for over a year. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

By Madalyn Howitt

Ataguttaaluk Elementary School in Igloolik is one of Nunavut’s oldest schools, and it shows.

A long list of maintenance issues plagues the school, stretching from damage — sometimes caused by mischief — and deterioration on the outside to water and electrical issues inside.

“I think one of the reasons why there’s so much vandalism going on there is really, well, look at the building. Why would you treat it with any kind of care or respect?” said Clarissa Carter, a parent of three children who attend Ataguttaaluk school in grades 4, 2 and kindergarten.

Carter has lived in Igloolik for about 12 years. She runs a hardware store in town, but previously worked as a teacher in Igloolik and has served as a member of the local district education authority.

She said that at the school, many windows don’t latch properly and some are screwed completely shut, while some doors have to be barricaded with makeshift wooden crossbars because the hardware doesn’t work.

The steps leading out from a side emergency exit are crooked and appear to be sinking into the foundation. Inside, the hallways and floors are slanted from an uneven foundation.

In 2019, a window blew open during a blizzard and froze the pipes, which burst and flooded the school leading to mould issues inside some classrooms, Carter said.

Red paint on the wooden outside walls of the building is chipped and faded, and the blue side panelling is breaking off.

But it’s the water and plumbing problems that are the biggest worry, Carter said.

Last year, about half of the school’s toilets and urinals were not functional at all and the washrooms near the gym don’t work, preventing the public from using the gym in the evenings, she said.

The water tank is located in the basement of the school, accessible by a steep ladder. It has a large crack in it, which means it can’t be filled to the top and its structure is compromised. It’s been leaking for more than a year and is “constantly” running out of water, Carter said.

This is a big problem for a small town like Igloolik, which is home to around 2,000 people.

“There’s a large portion of our town that doesn’t have reliable access to water during the day,” Carter said. “Add on that it’s some of our youngest students, and it becomes extremely problematic in my mind.”

Built in 1968, the 55-year-old school is close to 30 years past its intended lifespan, according to data provided by the Department of Community and Government Services.

The last renovation at the school happened in 1999.

Communication problems

On top of all the maintenance issues, however, Carter said one of the biggest problems facing the school is a lack of communication between the Departments of Education, Community and Government Services, and Igloolik community members.

“They’re not communicating with the administrators, no one’s communicating with the DEA, and even someone like me, who is willing to call around and send emails and write letters, it’s really difficult to get any kind of information,” she said.

Igloolik District Education Authority vice-president Francis Piugattuk declined an interview with Nunatsiaq News to discuss the school, instead directing the newspaper to the principal of Ataguttaaluk Elementary School, Don MacAskill.

Nunatsiaq News tried to arrange an interview with MacAskill through the Department of Education in early September.

After nearly two months of repeated attempts, the department denied the request.

Instead, the department provided written statements in response to a number of sample questions Nunatsiaq News had provided to describe the nature of the interview.

Building assessment underway

Education Minister Pamela Gross announced in the legislative assembly last month a building condition assessment for the school to determine the full extent of the work required and how much it will cost.

Education spokesperson Krista Amey said the assessment, co-led by the Education and Community and Government Services departments, began June 29 and is set to wrap up Nov. 30.

In the meantime, temporary measures “have been put in place to mitigate further disruptions to operations and potential school closures,” she said.

That includes more frequent water deliveries and ensuring someone is inside the building with a walkie-talkie communicating with the water truck to make sure water does not reach the crack, which is about halfway up the tank, Amey said.

Carter said she’s happy that the assessment is finally being done, but wants to see one of two outcomes: either the school must have extensive renovations or the building needs to be scrapped and a new one built.

“We’re going to need a renovation. It’s clear,” she said.


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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by art thompson on

    Geez whats the problem? Iqaluit had to build a new jail first. Like get your priorities straight.

  2. Posted by S on

    One of the most difficult issues in Nunavut communities is an unwillingness by maintenance staff to perform their duties. The most egregious shortcomings are with CGS and housing maintenance workers. The lack of commitment to work and the low quality of work, is startling – all the more so because many of the workers are capable. They are extremely well remunerated; parts and equipment are abundant and available. Yet the workers persist with shoddy workmanship and abominable productivity.

    Sadly, the scenario just described, is just the tip of the iceberg of the malfeasance within GN and its bureaucracy, and the less than useless lot at NEU.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      The local CGS crew does its best, though they have schools, multiple GN office buildings, Health Center, and the Arctic college to maintain… and there might be more. and there is only 3 people, and often only 2 on at a time.

      Communication is a very big part of the problem. I know within the GN it is not easy for the people on the ground to let upper management know what the issues are and convince upper management (Directors and ADM/DMs… we all know the Ministers don’t make the real decisions, because if the Minister of CGS did have any say he would not want his Nieces to go to a school like this) to fix them.

  3. Posted by Name Withheld on

    Why isn’t CGS looking into these school in the smaller communities? You have overpaid engineering department, overpaid technical officers who should visit these schools and provides inspections annually.

    Superintendent of the three regional CGS, why aren’t you asking the settlement maintainers what are still outstanding in the work orders and why aren’t they going lower?

  4. Posted by Aputi on

    Just approve the damn Mary River mine and make money for Nunavut so the communities can get funding for such a new buildings

    • Posted by It is on

      It is approved. And functioning. And will provide a very small increase in $ for govt from taxes if it gets bigger. And will not solve all these problems.

    • Posted by Don on

      No they have not approved the Mary river project. They only approved them to ship this year and next year shipping season because of them being shut down early by the Canadian coast guard due to heavy ice flow. They have not been approved for the railway to miline inlet either.

  5. Posted by Clarissa nailed it! on

    Clarissa Carter is showing us a PRIME example of Broken Window Theory. “I think one of the reasons why there’s so much vandalism going on there is really, well, look at the building. Why would you treat it with any kind of care or respect?”

    > In criminology, the broken windows theory states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.

  6. Posted by CGS Manager disapproves of this comment on

    Wtf how are you getting dislikes on your comment for propositioning that someone ACTUALLY DOES THEIR FLIPPIN JOB!

  7. Posted by You’re kidding on

    So does that mean this building was expected to be replaced twice already. Every 25 years. How do you think that is sustanaible. Our town schools are over 80 years old with no expectation of being replaced. They are kept clean and have regular maintenance. No big secret to keeping any building viable. Stop the vadalism, do the work, respect your assets. Maybe start paying for your own buildings. These things are not disposable. The replacement value is likely about 40 million. Which means nothing when it is free.

    • Posted by Putting this out there on

      This article is not about how old the building is. It is about how poorly maintained it has been. And yes the older it gets the more that shows when not maintained

      Yes the life expectancy should last 80 years, however like you said it needs to be maintained. And maintaining a a building takes money. Education is provided by the Gov and the building is supposed to be maintained by the Gov. And you mentioned the key to your 80 year old school “kept clean and have regular maintenance”. Do you volunteer to maintain your school? Do you pay for renovations. I bet it has had a few over the 80 Years, and unless it is a private school then you and your family did not pay for it.

      If nothing is done right now to repair this building it is NOT going to last 25 more years to be 80 Years old.

  8. Posted by Other factors on

    The broken window theory has considerable merit however the greater part of the cause is home. If there is no respect for property or person shown at home the children learn from that and normalize it .

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