New school shines in Sandspit

Students outside the brand-new Agnes L. Mathers Elementary School give three cheers together with teacher Behn Cochrane on their first day of class on Sept. 5. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Students outside the brand-new Agnes L. Mathers Elementary School give three cheers together with teacher Behn Cochrane on their first day of class on Sept. 5. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Students outside the brand-new Agnes L. Mathers Elementary School give three cheers together with teacher Behn Cochrane on their first day of class on Sept. 5. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Students outside the brand-new Agnes L. Mathers Elementary School give three cheers together with teacher Behn Cochrane on their first day of class on Sept. 5. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Principal Vicki Ives, left, thanks everyone who worked on the new school building together with former facilities manager (now information technology) Steve Goffic, District Principal of Aboriginal Education Joanne Yovanovich, and Superintendent Dawna Day. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Principal Vicki Ives, left, thanks everyone who worked on the new school building together with former facilities manager (now information technology) Steve Goffic, District Principal of Aboriginal Education Joanne Yovanovich, and Superintendent Dawna Day. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Students in Behn Cochrane’s class got right into their work, even as parents and community members were poking their heads in to have a look at the new rooms. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Students in Behn Cochrane’s class got right into their work, even as parents and community members were poking their heads in to have a look at the new rooms. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
New school shines in Sandspit
Most of the furniture in the new school was moved over from the old one, but there are new storage areas for both teachers and students. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Most of the furniture in the new school was moved over from the old one, but there are new storage areas for both teachers and students. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
For Justin Robinson, who had an unlucky break skateboarding, day one at the new school was a chance to fill up his cast with signatures, and put the school’s accessibility to the test. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)For Justin Robinson, who had an unlucky break skateboarding, day one at the new school was a chance to fill up his cast with signatures, and put the school’s accessibility to the test. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Students, students-to-be, present and former staff all enjoyed tours of the new school, and some cake, too. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Students, students-to-be, present and former staff all enjoyed tours of the new school, and some cake, too. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
A portrait of the school’s namesake and founder, Agnes L. Mathers, hangs in the hallway. Next door is the Dewayne Gould gym, which will remain for the school and community to use, connected to the school’s front door by a covered walkway. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)                                A portrait of the school’s namesake and founder, Agnes L. Mathers, hangs in the hallway. Next door is the Dewayne Gould gym, which will remain for the school and community to use, connected to the school’s front door by a covered walkway.A portrait of the school’s namesake and founder, Agnes L. Mathers, hangs in the hallway. Next door is the Dewayne Gould gym, which will remain for the school and community to use, connected to the school’s front door by a covered walkway. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer) A portrait of the school’s namesake and founder, Agnes L. Mathers, hangs in the hallway. Next door is the Dewayne Gould gym, which will remain for the school and community to use, connected to the school’s front door by a covered walkway.
New school shines in Sandspit

Sun and students poured into a brand-new Agnes L Mathers Elementary School on the first day of class last week.

“I think the fact the sun is shining on this brand-spanking new school is a sign of things to come,” said Dawna Day, superintendent of the Haida Gwaii school district.

With nearly three dozen students inside, not to mention the many parents, former teachers and staff who came for the ribbon-cutting, cake, and tour, Day said it felt like Sandspit’s new school had never been empty.

Opened on a bright Tuesday, Sept. 5, just five months after the first construction workers set boots on the ground, the $3.3-million building is about three quarters the size of the old ALM, but much brighter inside.

Every room in the south-facing school has windows. Each class and the library have glass doors that lead outside.

“For light, it’s no comparison,” said Steve Goffic, who was the district’s facilities manager during the relatively short construction and much longer planning phase of the replacement school.

The new ALM also has en suite washrooms for kindergarteners and children in the pre-school Strong Start program, plus a new kitchen with plenty of coffee-making options for teachers and staff. There are staff laundry facilities and even a shower, partly for anyone who lives on Graham Island but needs to stay on Moresby overnight.

This week, workers are finishing up sidewalks around the building. A covered walkway will connect the new school to the existing Dewayne Gould Gym, soon to be the last remaining part of the old ALM.

Designed by Craven Huston Powers Architects and pre-fabricated by Shelter Modular near Abbotsford, B.C., the school was shipped to Sandspit on a single barge. Fictorie Construction, which also oversaw the Port Clements Multiplex, managed the construction, which included the foundation work, joining the 11 modular pieces that make up the school, then finishing the interior wiring and utilities.

Staff from the Northern Health clinic that is separately housed in the school building were expected to move in on Thursday.

Dawna Day, Trustee Elizabeth Condrotte, teacher Behn Cochrane, and Principal Vicki Ives all spoke at the ribbon-cutting, where Aboriginal Education Principal Joanne Yovanovich scattered eagle down to welcome the new building.

Day gave particular thanks to the Ministry of Education for funding the project, Sandspit residents for helping to guide its design, and her predecessor Angus Wilson for getting it going. But she singled out Goffic for a haawa after the many nights and weekends he worked to see it through.

“I think we should all tell him to go home and get some sleep after this,” she said.

Sandspit