A view inside Agnes L. Mathers Elementary on its opening day last September. While glad for the new elementary school and health clinic, until recently Sandspit students and residents have had to put up with bad odours in the school due to a misplaced vent for the septic field and a long closure of the Dewayne Gould gym. (File photo/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Stinks, kinks, finally fixed at Agnes L. Mathers Elementary

Everyone cheered when the new Agnes L. Mathers Elementary opened in Sandspit this September.

The $3.3-million school is smaller than the old one but bright, modern, with a small health clinic and the old Dewayne Gould Gym next door.

But not long after it opened, students and staff started to notice a mysterious stink wafting through the building some mornings.

It got so foul one day that students were sent home.

Finally, district staff are hoping they have found and fixed the problem — a misplaced vent for the septic field.

“It wasn’t sewage. It was a gas that came up as pressure flushed the system,” said Superintendent Dawna Day, speaking at the Feb. 27 meeting of the Haida Gwaii school board.

“That’s part of the reason why we had so much trouble finding it — you had to be there at the exact time.”

Stephen Querengesser, president of the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association, welcomed news of a fix for the sewer smell.

“Teachers are managing through it, but they always bring it up,” he said.

Unfortunately, Querengesser and local school trustee Denise Husband said there was another issue at the new school — the Dewayne Gould Gym, which had new heating and fire-safety systems installed — has only just re-opened for public and after-school use since the end of the last school year.

“Could maybe the board apologize for withholding something like that from the community for so long?” Querengesser asked.

“People do feel left out.”

Although ALM students got to start using the gym again in December after having all their fall gym classes in the much smaller Sandspit Community Hall, the upstairs weight room was closed until last week. The gym also includes an art room, and is Sandspit’s main facility for after-school, HG Rec, and Sandspit Rec activities.

Day said the gym re-opening was a top priority for district staff, but delays kept coming up, most recently because the fire inspector wanted more fire safety equipment than was included in the new school’s engineering plan.

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