Sioux North High School officially opens its doors in Sioux Lookout, Ontario
Indigenous, non-Indigenous students work together to suggest, select name for new school
After years of construction, and a few delays, Sioux North High School in Sioux Lookout celebrated its grand opening Wednesday.
The new school, on Third Ave. North in the northwestern Ontario community, has been in the works for five years.
The $30-million facility, with 23 classrooms, is home to 500 students, with some coming from Sioux Lookout, while many others are from remote First Nations and live in the town during the school year.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous students comprised and came up with the name Sioux North.
"There were students from different cultural backgrounds, and just to watch them work together," said Principal Wayne Mercer, "and work with the different choices or different suggestions, school names, and how they arrived at Sioux North High School."
"I love the name, but I love the process even more."
Reina Foster, one of the students who selected the Sioux North name, said she is pleased with how the new school is uniting the community.
"You know, QE [former Queen Elizabeth District High School] has come a long way, I'm a 2016 graduate, and I'm really proud to see how far we've come," she said.
When it comes to technological features such as wireless internet, the new high school is very advanced compared to its predecessor, which is located about two blocks south of the new facility, said Mercer.
The legacy left by the old high school is complicated, said Mercer, noting that aspects of its history need to be preserved, while other parts, such as Indigenous children being sent away from their families to attend the school, must be remembered.
"Our student demographic provides us with the unique demographic to get to the calls of action for the Truth and Reconciliation report in an education setting," he said.
"One third of our students is from non-Indigenous ancestry, one-third is from urban Indigenous, and one-third of our student population comes from area First Nations to the north."
The new Sioux North High School features 23 classrooms, including specialty facilities for woodworking, automotive, food safety, and music classes along with a cafetorium featuring a new stage and theatre-style seating. The library is bright and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Sioux North High School is the largest capital project undertaken by the Keewatin Patricia District School Board since its creation in 1998. The school has been in the planning phases since the board received a $30M grant for its construction in 2014.
Completion was originally targeted for September 2018, but the actual move-in date for staff and students was March 2019.