Treaty 2 Territory – With more than 800 students attending a school designed for 250, new education facilities were more than a ‘want” for the community of Ebb and Flow, it was an absolute necessity.
And efforts to relieve that educational pressure took a huge step forward, Apr. 21, when the community broke ground on a $55 million project which will see the construction of a new Kindergarten to Grade 6 school, renovation of the community’s existing school for Grades 7 to 12 classrooms and the construction of 23 new teacherages to house school staff.
“We talk about the kids that are here and we talk about the kids that are not born yet. We have to think about that. That’s the way the elders used to think a long time ago. We have to think about our kids. What are they going to have when they grow up, what are their grandkids or great grandkids going to have,” Chief Wayne Desjarlais said during a ceremony to break ground on the project. “The school is going to be built, we’re going to start it. We have the construction crews, as you can see the material around the community and the equipment it’s going to be done right here. We’re going to have local people working.”
Speaking directly to students gathered at the ceremony, Chief Desjarlais stressed how lucky they are to be getting such top-notch educational facilities.
“I know you’re too young to think about this right now, but most of you will have kids and your kids are going to go to school here,” he said. “So we have to take care of the schools that we’re going to have. We’re going to have to take care of the teachers.”
Desjarlais added he is pleased to see the years long journey toward a new school coming to an end.
“Many years ago our first school was made for 250 students. We passed that mark probably within the first five or six years after the school was finished in 1983,” he said. “Today we have close to 800 students. We have more students in Ebb and Flow School than five schools in Turtle River (School Division). So that’s why we’re getting a new school for the elementary grades.
”The budget has earmarked $30 million for construction of the new facility and $7 million for development of the teacherages with the remainder destined for renovations at the existing school. A project of that size takes a considerable amount of time and effort to get off the ground”, said Praneeth Cherukuri, a senior engineer of Infrastructure and Housing Professional and Technical Services with Indigenous Services Canada.
“It’s been five years. It may seem like a long time, but to build a big school and then do a renovation to the existing school it is a big task and we need a good team in place. So to gather all the team and have all the funding in place, that’s unfortunately how long it takes,” he said. “Soon, before you know it, you’ll have a new school here and the old school will be like another new school and you’ll have teachers here. So this whole area will be hustling and bustling and I truly think this whole educational complex will be a shining example for what can be done in a First Nation and I do think it will be one of the best schools in Manitoba once it’s done. We didn’t leave any stone unturned.”
Part of what makes the new school special is when viewed from overhead the building is shaped like an eagle with its wings, a symbol of love in Indigenous cultures’ seven sacred teachings.
Seeing the vision come to life is exciting said Victor Kolynchuk of Architecture 49, who designed the new school.
“We’ve been on this project for five years to get here where we are here today. It’s a big achievement, but there’s yet an even bigger achievement over the next two years to construct the school,” Kolynchuk said. “I believe in education. Education is powerful, it has the power to elevate individuals, communities and cultures. So this is your opportunity two years from now to take advantage of this opportunity to increase your power and maintain your culture and work together with your children that have yet to come.”
Construction is set to begin immediately and the project is expected to take two years to complete, said project manager Phil Cesario of PM Associates, who act as project manager. The project, he said, offers tremendous opportunity for community involvement.
“We’re going to be making a lot of noise and mess for the next two years, but the end result will definitely be worth it,” Cesario said. “There’ll be lots of opportunities for the community to participate in terms of labour work, but even for the students, there’ll be lots of opportunities in the building for artwork to truly make this school your own and we look forward to sharing those opportunities with you. I’m looking forward to the ribbon cutting ceremony two years from now.”
Getting the community to that point is NDL Consruction, a Winnipeg-based company with experience working in northern and First Nations communities. Company president Peter Barg said his team is excited by the opportunity to bring the community’s vision to life.
“Not only are we excited to build a beautiful building which the architects have designed and to work with this team, but we love working in northern and First Nation communities,” he said. “It’s not just about building a big building or a beautiful building and doing business. Yes, those are wonderful things, but bringing integrity and trust and respect to that process is something that we value as a family-owned business and we’re looking very forward to working with your community with your chief, council and the workers that are going to be coming from this community.”
Story written by Shawn Bailey of the Dauphin Herald
Last modified: May 13, 2022