Yukon government not ruling out new school for Ross River

Yukon's Minister of Public Works Richard Mostyn says he will consider all the evidence before deciding whether to commit yet more money to repair the beleaguered school — or start fresh with a new building. 'Everything is on the table.'

Existing school building has had structural problems since it opened in 2001

Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn Mostyn said he wants to see a geotechnical examination of the ground below the school, before he gives the go-ahead to any further repairs. (CBC)

Yukon's minister of public works is not ruling out building a new school in Ross River. 

Richard Mostyn was responding to reports from structural engineers that say the school needs an extensive overhaul, just two years after the building underwent major repairs.

The building was closed for a period in 2015 and again last week after the region was shaken by a couple of earthquakes.

An inspection from early March of this year found the building continues to shift and move, as permafrost thaws below. The engineers concluded the distress on the structure will continue to increase as the building continues to move.

An inspection earlier this year found the school building continues to shift and move, as permafrost thaws below. (CBC)

Mostyn said he wants to see a geotechnical examination of the ground below, before he gives the go-ahead to any further repairs.

"Geotechnical work will have to be part of this ... what the ground is like today, after the earthquake, in light of the melting that has happened," he said.

"I want a good sense of what the ground is like underneath that structure, and then we're going to look at options to proceed."

Mostyn said he wants to be sure that the building is safe and functioning properly, but he's "gathering evidence" before making any decision. 

"This is a government that does evidence-based decision making. I'm looking at the options and then we're going to make a decision, once we have all the information before us, that's in the best interests of the people of Ross River." 

Everything on the table

Mostyn says he doesn't know how much the government has spent on monitoring, inspecting, and repairing the school since it opened in 2001. He's asked his staff at the department of public works for an accounting of that.

He questions whether it's fiscally responsible to throw more public money into a building that may not be worth salvaging.

A crack above a door frame in the school, seen in 2015. (Submitted by Billie Maje)

"This school has has problems [since it was built]. I don't think any rational person is looking at what happened in 2015, with levelling the school, then two years later, we're in the same situation. I don't think that personally is a good way to proceed."

Mostyn said he wouldn't make any specific promises before he had all the information.

"Everything is on the table," he said.

He's requested all the geotechnical reports that have been done on the site. He also wants to determine whether any geotechnical assessment was done in 2015, as had been urged by engineers.

Mostyn says structural engineers examined the school after last week's earthquake and deemed it safe for occupancy. But he couldn't say if the ground conditions were part of that inspection. 

He expects to receive the post-earthquake report by the end of the week. 


About the Author

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at

With files from Sandi Coleman


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