Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak questioned whether renovations of a school washroom at Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School in Baker Lake served the goal of making it accessible for all students. NNSL file photoStewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak used question period in the legislative assembly last week to take issue with a smaller-than-expected accessibility renovation at Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School in Baker Lake.

“As the minister is aware, a project has been underway for quite some time to create a special needs washroom at the Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School in Baker Lake,” said Simailak Tuesday, Feb. 27. “After a couple of false starts, a contractor was hired and materials were chartered into Baker Lake. In order to meet the needs of students, an existing washroom must be expanded by approximately 12 feet in order to accommodate individuals that are using a wheelchair, a lift, the space required for the support staff, as well as a toilet, sink and a table. Instead, the washroom was expanded by a mere 30 inches, not nearly enough room to help a student out of their wheelchair to use the facilities.”

He asked Education Minister Pamela Gross what standards her department should be following to ensure that students who need their spaces adapted can be fully accommodated.

Gross responded, “We do have a new school planning and design standard which follows the Canada national standards for design in our schools and all of our new school builds.”

Simailak replied that he had corresponded with Gross on the issue a number of times and asked again for clarity on how the Department of Education is working to meet its commitment to ensuring inclusivity in schools.

“We transferred money from our ongoing life cycle to get the work done,” said Gross. “That money that was transferred from our budget ongoing life cycle was transferred to the Department of Community and Government Services to work on that project.”

Simailak then referenced Nunavut’s Education Act, saying students of all abilities and needs should be supported.

“I believe that inclusivity means giving students the respect and dignity to thrive in our education system by taking their needs into account,” he said. “Not wants, needs. Mr. Speaker, the minister has said twice now that they have transferred money from the department to the Community and Government Services to work on this special-needs washroom, but it’s not enough. The original plan was about 12 feet… it was a mere 30 inches. The District Education Authority of Baker Lake was advised recently that the project file is closed, the project is done, and they were basically told this is what you’re stuck with.”

He asked Gross if she would commit to working with CGS to revisit the issue and ensure a special-needs washroom “of the appropriate size” would be created at the school.

“I can say that we will personally look into the matter and ensure that what the member is bringing up is looked into further,” said Gross. “I know that we have had correspondence around the issue, and specifically to the size. I can say that we do have an accessible washroom in the school, and we’ll look into the matter further.”

By Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 07, 2024 at 12:44

This item reprinted with permission from   Kivalliq News   Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
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