NANAIMO — Shovels are in the ground to realize the longtime vision of a new elementary school for Snuneymuxw First Nation.
SFN officials and existing Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh Community School students gathered for a ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday for an $11-million school on Stuywut St. on Snuneymuxw land in Cedar.
Roxanne Harris, principal of the existing SFN elementary school on Centre St. in south Nanaimo, said having a modern, larger school will be a huge step forward from their existing overcrowded facility.
“The size of this school is going to be three times the size of our current school,” Harris said. “Just the sheer ability to have a little bit of elbow space and not have spaces doubled as a staff room and a reading room.”
Harris said the new school will have an Indigenous influence, including the continual presence of a language and culture teacher.
The school will have room for 100 students, up from the current number of 56, and will recruit students from outside of SFN.
Harris said the area will hopefully become a community hub for Snuneymuxw. "They're planning to build new homes (and) with new homes we're hoping there will be new families that come with little children."
A new health centre and outdoor lacrosse box are located down the street from the future home of the new Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh Community School. Harris added there's talk of an SFN high school across the street some day.
Indigenous Affairs Canada is funding the project but won't completely cover the costs required to build a playground at the school.
Snuneymuwx Elders said a new elementary school is a discussion they've had since as far back as the early 1990's.
Steve Rae, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools board chair, told NanaimoNewsNOW the new school is "fantastic news" for their SFN partners.
“We are thrilled for today, thrilled for our friends and family at the SFN. This is a momentous occasion and this is a long time overdue as far as we're concerned.”
Construction is expected to finish next April.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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