Northwest British Columbia First Nation breaks ground on new school near Terrace

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The long-awaited construction of the new Kitsumkalum First Nation school is underway following a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.

The tender for the 1,200 square meter ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School Building has been awarded to Vancouver Island-based CCM Construction Ltd.

Although the estimated cost of the project has not been disclosed, Phase 1 of the multimillion-dollar project is jointly funded by the Kitsumkalum First Nation and Indigenous Services Canada.

The First Nation will contribute both capital funding and building materials for the school.

Phase 2 will see the construction of a gymnasium and efforts are underway to secure construction funds. Currently, the Prince Rupert Port Authority has committed to contributing $200,000 towards the cost of the gymnasium through its Community Investment Fund.

“Yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony was a great day and a milestone in this project that has taken so long to come to fruition,” Kitsumkalum Chief Councilor Don Roberts said April 21.

The K-12 school building will accommodate 80 students in five classrooms. The building will be completed with a multipurpose room and office space.

The one-story wood-frame school building is being constructed on a section of cleared land along West Kalum Forest Service Road, not far from its intersection with Highway 16.

It will replace the aging and inadequate structures currently occupied along Spokechute Rd. where Kitsumkalum’s other public sector services are located.

The new location, which was cleared for possible construction a year and a half ago, will feature a bus loop in addition to parking and a circular playground.

Students now study in separate but adjacent buildings connected by pathways, including the former Kitsumkalum Health Center, a building that was once owned by School District 82.

Roberts said the old school facilities are temporary structures that have reached the end of their lifespan and the new school will provide modern facilities for learning.

“It is extremely important that young people in Kitsumkalum are educated in their own language and culture,” he said, adding that the school has three main focuses: culture, language and individual student support.

“One-to-one support means no student is left behind – students couldn’t keep pace in the provincial school system and ended up being left behind. At ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo, every student is supported.

A Kitsumkalum design committee will work with the architects on the exterior design of the building.

The new school building is expected to be completed and open by September 2023.

– With files from Rod Link

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