Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Attawapiskat's New School Undergoing Repairs after Being Closed Due to Flood

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Attawapiskat's New School Undergoing Repairs after Being Closed Due to Flood

Article excerpt

Attawapiskat school closed by flood

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A new school in a remote northern Ontario indigenous community has been closed for more than a month after a malfunctioning sprinkler system flooded the building.

Band council members in Attawapiskat First Nation say the break inside the $30 million elementary school, the only one available to serve the roughly 400 students in the community, leaving much of one floor under water.

Chief Executive Wayne Turner says there have been no classes since the sprinkler malfunctioned on Jan. 7.

He says repairs to the building are underway and hopes students will be back in the school in a matter of weeks.

The triumphant opening of the school in 2014 put an end to a 14-year period during which the community had to teach its youngest students in portable classrooms due to a lack of proper facilities.

Turner says the latest setback, one of many for a community that's been grappling with a youth suicide crisis and a chronic housing shortage, is very disheartening.

"How would you feel," Turner wearily asked in a telephone interview, describing the community reaction as one of anger and "extreme frustration."

Turner said the sprinkler malfunctioned on a Saturday when class was not in session and only one staff member was on hand. By the time crews turned the water off about 30 minutes after the flood began, he said 60 per cent of the first floor was under 2 1/2 to 10 centimetres of water.

He blamed the flood on a mistake during construction of the long-awaited school.

"During the construction there was an installation error," he alleged. "It was unfortunately not detected. It lasted for two years, then it broke."

Turner said students have been receiving take-home assignments in the weeks since the school closed, but did not know particulars of how they were being evaluated.

The head of the Attawapiskat First Nations Education Authority, Miriam Wesley, said she had "nothing to say" about the school closure.

Turner said repairs to the building are currently on track to be completed by Feb. …

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