The federal government and Attawapiskat leaders announced on March 6 that a Manitoba contractor will construct the new school for Attawapiskat First Nation.
Penn-Co Construction Canada (2003) Ltd. is based in Blumenort, Man., and has experience working with remote First Nation communities on the construction of large facilities such as water treatment plants, hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings, according to a press release put out by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).
Construction will start this spring and the new school is expected to open during the 2013-2014 school year.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence said that the children and parents of Attawapiskat rejoiced with the announcement.
“Shannen Koostachin’s dream was, in part, a safe and comfy school. We are happy that this part of her dream will soon be realized,” Spence said in a press release.
Shannen Koostachin was a 15-year-old youth who initiated a national campaign urging the federal government to build a new school in the community after the old school was demolished more than 10 years ago due to diesel fuel contamination. Shannen never lived to realize her dream, as she died in a car accident in 2010.
“I wish to extend thanks to all those involved, including the working group that has worked diligently for the past year to bring us to this stage,” Spence said. “As Shannen said, ‘Never give up.’ The construction of the new school is a great accomplishment for our First Nation.”
AANDC Minister John Duncan said that his government believes that education is the foundation of strong healthy communities.
“Since 2006, we have invested in 22 new schools, 22 major renovation projects and 184 projects involving minor renovations, and we made education a joint priority in the Joint Action Plan launched in 2011 with the Assembly of First Nations,” Duncan said in a press release. “We are committed to working in partnership with Attawapiskat First Nation to ensure that its youth receive a quality education.”
When completed, the 5,808-square-metre school will accommodate 540 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8.
Duncan made the announcement in May 2011 that the federal government would set aside funding for the design and construction of the school for Attawapiskat. The announcement came after several INAC/AANDC ministers over the past 10 years promised a new school, only to tell the community that funding could not be committed.
The original school was closed in 2000 and later demolished, due to diesel fuel contamination.
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