DFC gym closure highlights need for new school, says principal

The principal of Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, Ont. says the temporary closure of the school's main gym has been "heartbreaking," and highlights the need for the building to be replaced entirely.

Gym to hopefully reopen Thursday, but problems with aging building are ongoing

A leaking roof and condensation on the walls prompted the closure of the gym at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Monday. (Sharon Angeconeb/Twitter)

The principal of Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay, Ont. says the temporary closure of the school's main gym has been "heartbreaking," and highlights the need for the building to be replaced entirely. 

The decision to close the gym was made on Monday after Sharon Angeconeb came in to discover a visibly leaking roof, and heavy condensation on the walls that raised concerns about mould, and student safety. 

"That was my main thought, you know, when I ended up closing it on Monday morning was that this gym is not safe for our students," she said. 

The hope is that the gym can be reopened on Thursday, but in the meantime, students and staff have been without the important gathering place that serves many purposes at the Indigenous high school, she said, noting that one immediate concern was for an upcoming Christmas feast they planned to have in the room. 

(Marc Apollonio/CBC)

"It's central to a lot of our programming, a lot of our special events, our celebrations we hold in the gym," she said. "It means a lot more than the possible loss of volleyball and basketball, as heartbreaking as that would be. It's central to our school."   

It's also heavily used for recreation in-between classes by students who spend long hours at the building, which is open from breakfast-time until well in to the evening for the teens who have left their northern communities and families to study in Thunder Bay, she added. 

'We need a new school'

While this is the first time the gym has been closed for such a long period of time, the leaking roof and poor ventilation systems are ongoing problems, said Angeconeb, and not the only ones within the aging building. 

"Really we need a new school building and a new residence for the students, a living centre, and we've been saying that for years," she said. 

"We can keep trying to put Band-Aid fixes on everything. We fix one thing, while down the hall something else is breaking down. It's ongoing, and it's not going to get better because really this school is out of date." 

A feasibility study is currently underway looking into the possibility of building a new school building for DFC, which is run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, which receives funding from the federal government. 

That study is expected to be completed in April, Angeconeb said. 

"So it's a matter of trying to hold things together until then."