Partnership pushes school expansion forward

Premier Christy Clark announces feasibility study to co-pay for Chief Matthews Elementary project with federal government.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark spends some time with the children at Chief Matthews Elementary in Old Massett

Chief Matthews Elementary is one step closer to receiving much needed classroom expansions and a new gymnasium, thanks to a rare partnership between village council and the provincial government.

Surrounded by an audience of students, teachers and community members, Premier Christy Clark made the announcement at the school’s library Nov. 26, committing the province to $150,000 for a feasibility study to see how the project might move forward before the province deepens it commitment to the $4-million budget.

Asked why the province has decided to involve itself in the on-reserve project, typically the domain of Ottawa, the Premier said it was purely within the interest of the students.

“The kids are getting shortchanged compared to the kids everywhere else,” she said.

Chief Mathews students must share a community gymnasium that they have access to only 40 per cent of the time, which Ms. Clark said diminishes health and fitness programs at the school, as well compromises the function of a school as a gathering place for larger social, cultural and community events.

“We knew if we got involved it would make it a lot easier for Ken [Chief Rea of the Old Massett Village Council] to make a case to the federal government to move this project up the list for funding, which of course it has,” she said.

According to Mr. Rea, the school was 28th on a national list for school expansion projects, but with the provincial partnership it has moved to the top of that list.

Ms. Clark said the government will keep a close eye on the project to consider whether it might provide a model for other partnerships with First Nations in the province.

During the feasibility study the province will look at options for a new gymnasium or auditorium, draft preliminary schedules, assess budget requirements and identify potential funding sources.

Once the project moves forward, the province will kick in $2 million for the gym, while Ottawa will cover the other $2 million for classroom expansions.

On several occasions, during the official announcement and then after singing and dancing performances by the children, Ms. Clark gave credit of the partnership to Mr. Rea.

“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Chief Rea working so tenaciously, making sure our government knew that you needed this.

“There are such good things going on in this school, but it has really been limited by the lack of money and investment it’s had. I really felt like we had an opportunity—a big opportunity to improve that for these kids.”

The school was first approved for the expansion in 2006 but has seen little to no progress. Mr. Rea says the federal government advised to him to secure a partnership with the province to speed up the process. Mr. Rea acted on that advice and began holding meetings with deputy ministers, ministers and eventually the Premier herself.

“We finally came to the point where we felt this could all work in a very reasonable manner,” he said.

“With this expansion we’ll be able to keep our kids longer. They’re just transitioning from one school to another after Grade 5. But this can work; this announcement is great news.”

 

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Ferry sailing delayed after divers check Northern Adventure

Divers called in to check propeller shaft, sailing to Haida Gwaii now 140 minutes behind

Haida Gwaii fishery staff gear up for marine mammal rescues

Haida fishery guardians and DFO fishery officers better equipped to rescue marine mammals

On the Wing: Heatwaves, forests and shorebirds

By Margo Hearne The dog days of summer continue. It’s been hot… Continue reading

In Pictures: Great crowd, good vibes at 2018 Edge of the World

Haida Gwaii music fest gets a bumper turnout with summer sun and deep talent pool

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Northern B.C. residents face more evacuation orders as some smoke clears up

Regional District of BulkleyNechako issued new, expanded evacuation orders for remote areas Saturday

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

Most Read