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Cat Lake school under construction

Thursday May 10, 2012
Cat Lake Chief Matthew Keewaykapow, left, Titotay Memorial School principal Ruby Keesickquayash, centre, NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose, second from right, and Windigo First Nations Council chair/CEO Frank McKay, right, took part in Cat Lake’s May 1 sod-turning ceremony for a new school.

Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Model of new elementary school.
Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose celebrated with NAPS Const. Russell Cheechoo, Martha Wesley, Desirae Turtle, Dakota Keeper and Amber Crane.

Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Cat Lake elementary school students are eagerly awaiting the opening of their new school in September 2013.

“There was one older student who said he wanted to fail so he can go to the new school,” said Ruby Keesickquayash, principal of Titotay Memorial School. “It’s definitely huge — there’s more room for all the programs that we should have, like for phys-ed, we’ll have a gym.”

The community’s 115 elementary students currently participate in phys-ed programs when the weather is good enough for them to go outside. They were moved into their current school, which consists of an old building with five classrooms and a portable classroom, a few years ago after their old school burned down.

“It’s OK when it’s nice days, but on rainy days we can’t go outside,” Keesickquayash said.
Keesickquayash said storage has also been a problem in the current school, noting her principal’s office is partially used as a storage room.

“My desk is where I store stuff too,” Keesickquayash said. “So there will certainly be a lot of space for setting up things (in the new school).

Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose, Windigo First Nations Council chair Frank McKay and a group of project workers, Windigo technical staff and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada staff celebrated the new school along with students, Elders, leaders and community members during a May 1 sod-turning ceremony.

“It’s going to bring a positive influence on the children,” said Cat Lake Chief Matthew Keewaykapow. “We’ve been using makeshift classrooms and it is really cramped in there. It’s not a good environment for learning, but this school is going to address most of those problems due to the size and space.”

Keewaykapow said everyone in the community is excited about the new school, which w ill feature a computer lab, library, cafeteria and baseball field in addition to the gym and be located west of the airport near an old settlement.

“It’s going to be the pride and joy of the community when it is completed,” Keewaykapow said, noting the community looked at four locations for the new school. “That is the best one we came up with.”

McKay commended the community, Windigo technical staff, government representatives and consultants for all the hard work throughout the planning process.

“There is team work involved in ensuring these dreams can come true,” McKay said. “Working together with the government, working together with consultants and other experts is required to design and construct this building.”

Waboose sees hope for the future at the cleared site for the new school.

“It’s unfortunate these events happen too far in between,” Waboose said. “I’ve been in office for six years and this is only the fourth school I’ve participated in at either an opening or a sod turning.”

Although Cat Lake has been struggling with problems due to prescription drug abuse, Waboose said the community must keep moving forward.

“We must keep working on the projects and initiatives that are going to better our communities,” Waboose said. “It is certainly my hope to come back in September 2013 to see the final product."

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