Lakehead Public Schools' director of education Cathi Siemieniuk and Gull Bay First Nation Chief Wilfred King met with other Gull Bay leaders and school board officials in an effort to get 41 displaced students back into the classroom.
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Gull Bay First Nation students will soon be back in school, but in an Armstrong classroom.
Chief Wilfred King and other community leaders met with Lakehead Public Schools officials Monday afternoon and came to an agreement that will see 41 students attend Armstrong Elementary School in about a week’s time.
King said students have been in school sporadically throughout this school year but without any real instruction. When the community realized they had extreme financial difficulties earlier this month, the school was one of many community services council had to close.
Although Gull Bay has received aid money from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the school may need up to $120,000 in repairs before it’s safe for students to attend.
King said an engineering assessment was being conducted on the building Monday.
Students will be bused to the Armstrong school and although it’s a 45-minute ride, King said it’s their only choice at this time.
“It’s not the best possible scenario but it’s what we have to do for the time being. It’s only temporary,” he said, adding that parents recognize the need for their children to be educated.
“The parents were adamant that they wanted their children educated,” King said.
Losing as much time as they have in the classroom is already a major setback.
“Losing a whole school year takes a toll on the children and there’s a lot of work to do in terms of getting them up to speed again, making sure they are learning at levels that are comparable to other students,” said King.
The relationship between Gull Bay First Nation and the Lakehead board is a true partnership, said King, adding that he commends the board for coming to their aid.
Lakehead’s director of education Cathi Siemieniuk said the board looks forward to working with King and the community of Gull Bay as they try to meet the needs of the students.
“We’re very confident we can make that work,” she said.
Armstrong Elementary School is not at capacity and Siemieniuk said they will have to hire additional staff with the incoming students.
“We know that we need to make the transition a successful one for the students, but we also know that the Gull Bay community will work with us to ensure that this happens,” she said.
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