Nunavut government approves funding for Kugaaruk portables, new school design
“Our community has received tremendous support"
Nunavut MLAs approved a last-minute change to a government bill March 13 to secure funding for the replacement of school facilities in Kugaaruk.
MLAs approved Bill 35, Supplementary Appropriation Act 2017-18, first tabled at $71 million and later amended to $81 million.
The money will allow the departments of Education and Community and Government Services to purchase modular classroom portables and start the design of a new building to replace Kugaardjuq school, which was completely destroyed in a Feb. 28 fire.
“Our priority is to support the students and others impacted by this event,” said Nunavut’s finance minister, Keith Peterson, to the legislative assembly March 13. “Government of Nunavut officials are working closely with the community to find temporary space so that students can get back to class and complete the school year.”
The Government of Nunavut must order the portable classrooms soon to meet summer sealift deadlines. The goal is to install six modular classrooms in Kugaaruk in time to house Kugaardjuq students for the 2017-18 school year and until a new school is built.
Those portables are estimated to cost $6 million, Peterson said, while the GN will need an additional $4 million to initiate the design and build of the project.
The new school could take three to four years to build at an estimated cost of $40 million, he said.
Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq said government and local organizations have moved quickly to help the school’s 300 students get back to class.
“Our community has received tremendous support,” Qirngnuq told the legislature this week.
Students in Kugaardjuq’s kindergarten and primary grades have moved into space in the community’s daycare centre and church, Qirngnuq said, while students in Grade 7 to Grade 9 will be housed in the hamlet’s community centre.
Officials are still looking for space for the community’s secondary students, who aren’t expected to return to class until later this spring, he said, while classroom resources are being collected and prepared to ship from Winnipeg.
But Qirngnuq said school officials have assured him that secondary students will be able to make up lost instruction hours and complete this year’s studies by the end of the school year.
And Kugaardjuq’s popular school breakfast program, which feeds between 60 and 80 youth every day, has found a new temporary home in Kugaaruk’s wellness centre.
With the legislature’s winter sitting now wrapped up, Nunavut’s Education Minister, Paul Quassa, said he plans to visit Kugaaruk March 20.
The Kitikmeot community continues to receive donations and support from across the country, including Nunavut, where the Kugluktuk Youth Council and Nunavut Arctic College cooking students in Cambridge Bay fundraised for the school.
But the GN has noted that, as the school is a public institution, the GN will cover all the expenses of rebuilding Kugaardjuq school and replacing lost materials.