New $34M Cape Dorset school design to emphasize Inuit culture

The Nunavut government is giving a first look of what it wants to see in the new Cape Dorset high school, which will replace the school that burned to the ground last fall.

School to open by 2019, must accommodate 215 students in Grades 7 to 12

The rubble of Peter Pitseolak school just after it burned down last fall. The government's seeking a company to design and build the new school in a way that honours Inuit culture. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

The Nunavut government is giving a first look of what it wants to see in the new Cape Dorset high school in a request-for-proposals that was issued last month to design and build the school.

Last September, the hamlet's Peter Pitseolak high school burned to the ground. Since then, 115 high school students and staff have been splitting classroom time with students at Sam Pudlat elementary school.

Several youth are charged with arson in relation to the fire.

Recently, four modular classrooms arrived in Cape Dorset by sealift to accommodate students until the new $34 million school is complete. It's expected to be ready by 2019.

Design details

In its request for proposals, the Nunavut government lays out the baseline it's looking for in the school's design.

The new school must accommodate 215 students in Grades 7 to 12. That's taking into account the growth in student population from 143 in 2014 to many more two decades after the school is opened. 

The new school will be 3,300 square metres and all on one level.

The proposed site for the school is "a high point on the southeast edge of town overlooking the existing Sikusilaq arena and part of the community," according to the design brief.

'Encouraging Inuit pride'

The design brief emphasizes incorporating Inuit culture into the design of the school.

Under a section called "Encouraging Inuit Pride," the brief says "the design should reflect Northern values and include elements that promote Inuit identity," since most students are Inuit.

The brief lists a number of ways to encourage cultural identity, including having culturally relevant spaces in a central location.

It also includes a "skin room," to be used for "preparing animal skins such as seal, caribou, fox, etc., filleting fish. Skinning demonstrations for up to 10 students."

The room would include a freezer for pelts, a stainless steel butcher's table "large enough for the animal carcass" and vertical seal skin drying racks.

Saying goodbye

Cape Dorset gave a public goodbye to what remains of Peter Pitseolak High School last week.

This marks a fresh start for the community, says the hamlet's mayor.

"Without a doubt a lot of former students and teachers were angry and upset, but today we marked a new beginning," said Padlaya Qiatsuq in Inuktitut. "We are moving forward."

Former students shared their memories of the school at the ceremony on July 20.

Qiatsuq says the community will now work on cleaning up and rebuilding.