Fort Severn school building remains closed as another study required by INAC

The May 19 issue of Wawatay headlines "INAC insists on fourth study in effort to save mouldy school"

The reporter included an interview with the local MP, Roger Valley who clearly understands Fort Severn's concerns with the present school and its location with his comments in a side bar article about his visit to Fort Severn.

INAC insists on fourth study in effort to save mouldy school by Joyce Hunter

One study? Two studies? Maybe three studies will do. So far, Fort Severn has commissioned three studies in its bid to convince government bureaucrats one of its buildings is no longer safe to use. Wasaho School closed last spring because of mould contamination. Throughout the school year, Fort Severn’s leaders have continued to negotiate with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for school facilities for its kindergarten to Grade 8 students. Despite the community’s attempts to get “code compliant” temporary school facilities as a short-term fix and a funding commitment from INAC for a permanent new school, INAC is moving ahead with plans to conduct another study. George Kakekaspan, Fort Severn’s band projects manager, said INAC rejected the community’s proposals in favor of seeking the completion of an independent study on whether the community’s mould-contaminated school could be salvaged. “Fort Severn First Nation has commissioned three previous studies (on the now closed school) which identified health and safety concerns,” says a band council resolution, which grudgingly supports INAC’s proposal to fund a fourth study on the building. The 79 students, meanwhile, were reassigned to a home school program for the 2004-2005 school year because there were no alternate safe buildings for them to be schooled in, Kakekaspan said. “The parents want a proper school for their children,” he said. Tony Purdori, communications officer for INAC, said the department is interested in the independent study because there were such a wide range in estimates previously provided by different firms on the closed school. “A consultant was hired by the community who recommended that the school could be remediated,” Purdori said. “The First Nation got a second estimate (condemning the school).” Because there was such a wide range in the estimates, Purdori said the department felt compelled to pursue an independent study. Kakekaspan, on the other hand, calls this pursuit “a waste of time.” He explained the studies varied so widely in estimates because one, done by a firm specializing in indoor environmental pollutants, spoke only to the mould affecting the school. Kakekaspan also said the other two studies took into account the structural integrity of the school in addition to the mould. Kakekaspan said both studies condemned the building when structural integrity and mould were both factored into the study. “The second study, done by a contracting firm rather than an engineering firm in January of 2004, did not examine the fact the septic field is gone, the floor is rotten making it prone to collapse, or that the heating, ventilation, and recovery systems need to be replaced,” he said, adding there is a long list of structural problems with the school, which makes it unsafe. Kakekaspan said the study’s cost estimate failed to include local resources such as local labour, equipment, and accommodations, along with the non-construction costs associated with any project. “In 1999-2000, MCW/AGE Power Consultants out of Winnipeg, which did the original study, basically condemned the building,“ Kakekaspan said. The study is not even being mentioned by INAC. “In May 2004, Cook Engineering did the third study and that report condemned the building also. This study was a very detailed study that would address all concerns and was not mould specific.” A contractor has been named to carry out the independent assessment. Kakekaspan said the contractor will arrive in Fort Severn June 14. At that time, the school will be re-opened for a thorough examination and a report filed when the study is complete. Once the study is complete, INAC will know if it can be remediated. The community has petitioned Indian Affairs saying all remediation efforts will “ultimately prove unsuccessful” because the present site, which is located on top of a natural spring, is “far too ideal for mould growth.” In addition, no consultant, contractor or government agency will provide a ‘No Health Risk’ stamp of approval after remediation, Chief Roy Gray said. “They couldn’t guarantee any work that they do,” he said. “Also, we’ve had parents tell us they won’t bring their children into that school even after it’s remediated.”

Wawatay News Vol.32 #10 (May 19, 2005)