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New school for Baker Lake

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Baker Lake (Jun 20/01) - The chair of Baker Lake's district education board says it's about time his community got a new high school, considering the current building is a safety hazard.

Construction on the new school, slated to replace the 44-year-old Jonah Amitnaaq secondary school, begins this summer and is scheduled for completion in 2003.

Joe Aupaluktuq says the community is welcoming construction of the $13-million complex with "relief rather than enjoyment."

"We were promised a new school in 1998 but the money went somewhere else," said Aupaluktuq. "There were so many departments and so many reasons given to us but we wouldn't take no for an answer," he says.

Lorne Levy, manager of capital planning with the Nunavut Education Department, says the delay is just part of the process for big projects.

"There's many projects required and we're managing a limited budget," Levy says, but he doesn't have the details because the request for the school came before he took his current post.

"It's history beyond my time," he says.

Aupaluktuq says the board has been pushing for a new school since 1996.

The new school is part of the Education Department's capital plan for the Kivalliq region this year.

According to Percy Roberts, project officer with the Department of Public Works and Services, which is handling the project for the Department of Education, the two-storey, 4,600-square-metre school will have some new frills, including computer and science labs and a shop.

"It's a nice design, really roomy," says Roberts

The new school will have six classrooms and one of the biggest gyms in the Kivalliq. And that, according to Aupaluktuq, is what the students wanted.

The new school will also have a 220-square-metre community library and both the library and the gym will be available for use outside school hours.

"(Both facilities) can be used without access to the rest of the school", says Roberts.

For the time being and until the new school in finished, Baker Lake students will be inconvenienced.

According to Roberts, half the old school will be torn down to make way for the new school

"The students will have to use the other half of the school," he says.

Aupaluktuq says ventilation is one of the major concerns in the current high school, noting that students and teachers often complained of headaches and nausea.

Last fall, school officials even had to open doors just to circulate air.