NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Honey bucket in school prompts questions by MLA
Colville Lake school has no running water, cramped space

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Monday, June 11, 2012

The bathroom in Colville Lake School is a five feet by two feet closet with honey buckets and stored athletic equipment. Sahtu MLA, Norman Yakeleya, is saying the students deserve running water and more space.

NNSL photo/graphic

Colville Lake School consists of the main log building shown here and a nearby portable to house 54 students. - photo courtesy of Ian Patterson

"When the Colville Lake students go to Tulita or Norman Wells or Good Hope they envy those new schools because they have gymnasiums, running water, facilities, proper classrooms," he said. "They just marvel at the new school gym or the washrooms."

The Colville Lake community centre currently serves as the school gymnasium when necessary, as is the policy for NWT schools with enrolments under 150 students. However, Kevin O'Keefe, principal of Colville Lake School, said a lot of time is lost in the winter dressing and and undressing the students to brave the elements and take the trek to the community centre.

"Having it connected would certainly be a ideal thing," said O'Keefe, "and I know there are other small schools in the territory that have exactly that."

Yakeleya most recently spoke out about the state of the school on May 31 during question period at the 17 legislative assembly.

"There are 54 students and there will be six more next year," he said. "Teachers say it's hard to teach because there are four grades in some rooms."

At a later interview, Yakeleya told News/North classes are divided in an open room by cubicle dividers that do little to drown out noise from adjoining classes.

"It's very crampy and there's no space for anybody to do any proper teaching," he said.

O'Keefe agreed and pointed out that separate classrooms and a separate office space would provide a better, quieter learning environment and privacy where there is currently none.

Neither the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment nor the Department of Public Works and Services were able to comment on whether or not the school meets current criteria before press deadline.

However, the NWT Schools Capital Standards and Criteria published by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in 2005, states even if the school does not meet the current standards, "standards and criteria will not be applied to existing schools until such time as capital funding is identified to replace or renovate the existing building."

This means the Colville Lake students and staff will have to wait until the territorial government decides updating the school is a priority, unless the current structure were to be determined unsafe.

The capital standards and criteria document also states the school may be renovated instead of replaced if renovations can resolve issues at a smaller cost.

O'Keefe said the department does currently have plans to install indoor plumbing in both school buildings by the end of the summer.

"At one time they had (a new school) in the capital plans and then it came off the capital plans," said Yakeleya. "The government is very, very, very limited on what kind of capital plans can go ahead because of the new fiscal limitations and we're asking for a whole bunch of things. I'm not sure how high on the priority list the new school for Collville Lake would be."

Even if funding does appear for a new or renovated school in Colville Lake, students currently enrolled may have well moved on by the time construction is completed, as the NWT Schools Standards and Criteria states projects are usually completed over two to four years.

The Department of Education, Culture, and Employment and the Department of Public Works and Services were unable to provide a comment before press deadline.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.