After years of lobbying the federal government, North Spirit Lake celebrated the grand opening of its new school Sept. 28.
“We’ve been patient all these years and now we’re excited about this new school,” said Chief Rita Thompson.
The Victoria Linklater Memorial School is a four-classroom school built to accommodate 96 students from kindergarten to Grade 9.
The school is 1,545 square-metres in size and features a library, computer lab and gymnasium.
The new school replaces one built in 1972, which also had four classrooms, but lacked a gymnasium, computer lab and a library. It also had structural issues. The band council claims students would get headaches believed to have been caused by mould. And the furnace would break down from time to time, cancelling classes in the winter.
“It was boring because we’d have to stay in class all day,” Georgette Keno, a Grade 8 student, said of the small building.
She said each class at the old school only had one computer with Internet access, the washrooms were in poor condition and some windows were boarded up. With the new school, she said, “it’s a lot better” with the additions of a library, gym and computer lab.
North Spirit Lake was initially promised a new school by the federal government in August 2006. More than a year later, the community was told funding would be delayed for up to five years due to “funding pressures.” Then, in April 2009, the government announced it would provide $14 million for the school under the Canada Economic Action Program.
The band council estimates the community had at least nine chiefs who have fought to get a new school.
“Everybody’s happy to finally get it,” Thompson said. “Our children will be able to have a better education and with better technology and facilities.”
Construction for the school began in the spring of 2010 and was completed in August 2011. The school’s exterior includes a baseball diamond, soccer pitch and a separate fenced area for kindergarten children with playing equipment.
The school name is carried over from the previous school, which was named after a community Elder who lobbied to have a school built before the community even had houses, electricity and running water.
The community celebrated the completion of the new school with a grand opening ceremony and community feast Sept. 28.
Ontario Native Women’s Association executive director Cora McGuire-Cyrette enjoyed participating along with National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and W
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