School replacement could displace more than J.H. Sissons students, says board

'Unless this draft changes, William McDonald school is destroyed,' said Leanne Dragon, parent-council chair for that school.

Tear-down and rebuild of elementary school will leave YK1 down 16 classrooms for 2 years

The J.H. Sissons school gym was packed with parents who were there to hear the Yellowknife school board's plan for approximately 350 students after the school is demolished. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

A decision to tear down and rebuild Yellowknife's J.H. Sissons School will leave 350 students without classrooms in the near future, and many parents are raising concerns about a proposal that lays out where those students will be housed for the duration of the project.

The Yellowknife Education District No. 1 school board hosted a town hall Thursday night to discuss a plan that would include moving the junior-kindergarten to Grade 5 students to William McDonald school, which would in turn displace some of those students.

"Unless this draft changes, William McDonald school is destroyed," said Leanne Dragon, chairperson of the parent's advisory committee for that school.

According to the Yellowknife school board 2017-18 annual report, 240 students are currently enrolled at William McDonald Middle school.

Leanne Dragon, in the flowered shirt, is parent-council chair for William McDonald school. She was at the meeting to oppose a plan to move J.H. Sissons students to William McDonald during the project. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

Dragon was part of many who packed J.H. Sissons school to hear the proposal and air their concerns.

Michelle Haigh's son just started junior kindergarten at Sissons.

"Now that we're hearing he might be taken out, it leaves a lot of concern," she said. "In terms of cohesiveness of the school, and him being taken out and having to come back in. What are the plans to keep the children with the … teachers we've chosen as parents?"

In 2017, the school board announced Sissons needed to be replaced. It was built in 1975 and has never had any major renovations.

The school board was then tasked to determine whether to keep the school open while building a new Sissons on a different spot, or tear down and rebuild the school where it stands now.

No decision until March 2020: superintendent 

Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak, right, says no final decision will be made until March 2020. (Marcio Di Ciccio/CBC)

Last week, the school board announced it would opt for the latter option, leaving a two-year gap without Sissons.

At last night's meeting, board superintendent Metro Huculak assured parents no final decision will be made until March 2020.

"The process now is basically talking to the various staff first and then talking to the parent groups and so on," he said. "Now the real planning is how do we accommodate 16 classrooms?"

Construction on the new J.H. Sissons school is scheduled to start in fall 2020 and is scheduled to be complete in August 2022.

According to information presented at the town hall, the board aims to have a budget for the project confirmed by the end of this summer.

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi, Michael Hugall


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