Students and teachers at an Anishinaabe immersion school in Kenora, Ont. have a lot more to celebrate this new year, thanks to a one-year commitment from the federal government to provide tuition funding for the school's off-reserve students.  

Kiizhik School, which is in its third year of operation, provides First Nation students with education in literacy and numeracy in English as well as cultural teachings in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway language).

The school has an open-door policy for students, but for the past three years it has only received funding for those who live on reserve, and not for students who live in the city of Kenora, said Don Morrison, the executive director of Bimose Tribal Council, which operates Kiizhik School.

It's left the school with a funding shortfall, operating on "approximately 70 per cent funding." 

"We've been attempting to secure funds for our urban students … for the past four years," said Morrison.

Recently, Morrison said the school received the good news it's been waiting for, when it learned the federal government will provide one year's worth of funding for the 41 students who live off-reserve in the Kenora area, and attend Kiizhik.

"Right now it's based on the provincial tuition rate amount [which] is approximately $14,000 to $15,000 per student," Morrison said.

Funds will help with transportation, programming

He said up until the funding announcement, the school was "operating a very efficient program with the funds that [they] did have, however there were additional things that are normal in any other school, that [Kiizhik] could not provide."

Which is why Morrison said school officials arranged to meet up with parents and caregivers to determine what was needed for the students.

"For example the first thing upon announcement of the funding was to get bussing in place for our students, " Morrison said, "Kenora is quite a spread out area and there was a lot of difficulties in terms of parents getting their kids to our school."

He said extra curricular activities and much needed renovations to the school are also currently being discussed.

While the federal funding commitment is for one year, Morrison said he hopes it will lead to a permanent funding solution.