After years of discussions and planning, the $34-million replacement for J.H. Sissons School – Ecole Įtłʼo – is heading towards completion by late August, according to principal Graham Arts.
The 46,919-square-foot, two storey education facility, featuring 18 classrooms, a large gymnasium and a library, will accommodate up to 572 people. The former J.H. Sissons School, which stood on the same site on 51A Avenue, had 307.5 full-time equivalent students in September 2021.
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“An Indigenous consultant provided insights on the design of the building, which resulted in incorporated elements such as circular spaces, wayfinding, and colour selections,” stated Darren P. Campbell, manager of public affairs and communications with the Department of Infrastructure.
The budget includes demolition of the previous school and remediation of the site, which began in July 2019; the design process for the new school; the installation of temporary portable classrooms; and furniture and equipment.
Construction, awarded to general contractor Clark Builders, began in October 2019.
Keeping the project on budget and on schedule was tested by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the use of alternative construction materials in some instances due to supply chain issues.
There were periods when construction staff had to be reduced in number due to cases of the virus, including a one-week shutdown this past January while Covid cases were climbing in Yellowknife and onsite. The complement of workers currently numbers between 30 and 40, but is anticipated to rise to 40 to 50 staff by May, when exterior building and civil work, such as grading, paving and concrete, resumes. During the winter, there were 15 to 25 employees needed for primarily interior work.
Another challenge that was encountered early on was a void – 4.5 metres at its deepest point – located under the former school once it was demolished, according to Campbell.
“Through a combination of lowering the elevation of the building with an increased blasting program and filling the remaining void space with concrete, the problem was resolved without an extension to the timeline,” Campbell stated.
Despite the stumbling blocks, the project remains on target financially and in terms of its timeline, he added.