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Building of new high school delayed
Government wants process, cost and quality control tightened up

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 11, 2014

IGLULIK
The community of Iglulik will have to wait an extra couple of years for a new high school building.

The design contract for a new school was awarded to Guy Architects in July 2013 and the firm was to begin carrying out community consultations, but that contract has been cancelled.

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High school students currently share a school building with elementary and middle school students at Ataguttaaluk School in Iglulik. A new high school was scheduled to be completed by 2018 but has now been delayed for one to two years by the Department of Community and Government Services. - photo courtesy of the Igulik District Education Authority

"We've decided to redirect that project," said John Cooper, senior manager of the program management office with the Department of Community and Government Services (CGS). "We're looking at getting better at our requirements."

Normally, for each school build, the department which handles project management for a variety of buildings across the territory creates a design or project brief. That document describes all the requirements.

"What we want to do is improve that, expand it, develop it so that it's really quite comprehensive about our requirements," said Cooper. "Then it almost becomes a standardized design. It will incorporate all the requirements (the Department of) Education has around schools, also all the requirements that CGS has around how buildings are built."

This standardized approach, which doesn't necessarily mean that all Nunavut's new schools will look identical, is a practice that other Canadian jurisdictions, such as Quebec and Alberta, have already developed.

"We decided that we would stop the work and develop this standardized design option. We paid (Guy Architects) for the work they had done to date and we have copies of the reports and studies done that will inform us as we go ahead."

The move will delay completion targets by one to two years. However, Cooper said, in the long term the process of building schools will be streamlined and will have shorter timelines from the go-ahead to finish, with the benefit of quality control.

"And, hopefully, better cost control," he said, adding that keeping quality and costs in line have been a problem in the past.

When the project was awarded last year, Francis Piugattuk, then district education authority (DEA) chairperson, told Nunavut News/North "the project has been a long time coming."

The DEA had started writing to the territorial government about four years prior regarding the need for a new high school.

Piugattuk has since resigned but board member Philip Avingaq said the current facility, which houses the elementary, middle school and high school grades, can manage.

"We can wait another couple of years, from my perspective," said Avingaq.

Last year, the high school capacity was at about 83 per cent while elementary school capacity, which includes kindergarten to Grade 7, was at 86 per cent.

Avingaq recognizes the importance of the new building but points out that improving the quality of education is more important, at this point.

"They're going to roll out a new program this year, so I'm looking forward to that, and I am looking forward to the new school down the road.

"But the Department of Education wants so many graduates coming out of high school ... What are they graduating from? We're supposed to have an equal level of programs and services enjoyed by the rest of the country, but we fall so short."

The education authority is currently working on hiring a new principal for the high school.

Cooper said his department expects to put out a request for proposals for the delayed school build next May or June.

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