Nunavik village looks for classroom space following loss of school
Aupaluk mayor: "When I look back at that building and all the activities we’ve had there, it has a huge impact"
The Kativik School Board and officials in Aupaluk have identified two venues for hosting classes for about 50 local students, whose local school burned to the ground March 15.
Nearby communities have even offered some of their own local spaces to host Aupaluk students, but the community’s mayor, David Angutinguak, thinks a local solution is possible.
Sections of the local daycare centre, as well as an old municipal offices, could potentially be turned into temporary classrooms over the next two weeks.
Municipal staff had recently moved into a new northern village office and were planning to renovate the old office for youth activities.
‘We’re going to have to change our plans now,” Angutinguak said. “At the same time, we feel lucky that spring break has just started when the fire happened, so we have some time to plan.”
Classes at Tarsakallak school had only just ended last week when Aupalummiut woke up early Saturday morning to see smoke and flames rising from the school.
Firefighters tried to fight the blaze, but by mid-morning it was clear the building would be completely destroyed.
Angutinguak said many of the community’s volunteer firefighters and youth are currently out of town taking part in different sporting events, which made it harder to pull together a response to the fire.
Investigators with Quebec’s provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec, continue to assist the Kativik Regional Police Force with an investigation into the cause of the fire.
The KRPF has said no foul play is suspected.
Some residents of the community of 200 people believe the fire may have started in the school’s furnace room.
The school’s furnace had problems over the last couple of weeks and Tarsakallak students had recently been sent home because of strong fumes circulating through the school.
The furnace was still waiting for outside maintenance when the fire broke out.
Angutinguak himself was travelling the day of the fire, only learning about it through a Facebook post.
Tarsakallak means “easily seen from far away” in Inukttitut, and that wasn’t lost on Angutinguak as he rode back to Aupaluk March 16 on snowmobile.
“As I was coming back on the trail from Kangirsuk, that landmark was gone,” he said. “It has already changed our landscape.”
Aupaluk has also lost one of its most important hubs and gathering places, Angutinguak said. The school gymnasium was used to host local feasts, Christmas celebrations, meetings and even weddings.
As mushers and dog teams taking part in the annual Ivakkak race hunkered down in Aupaluk March 17 waiting for the weather to clear, Angutinguak said the community is missing the largest space it had to host visitors.
“When I look back at that building and all the activities we’ve had there, [the fire] has a huge impact,” he said.
Kativik School Board director general Annie Popert said the temporary classrooms will require some renovations before students can use them, but the board hopes to have the spaces ready in no more more than two weeks.
Before the fire, the KSB had been working with Quebec’s department of education to have an extension built onto Tarsakallak school this summer. Popert hopes those plans will translate into construction on a new school instead.
“It has to happen quickly,” she said.