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Demolition of YK’s JH Sissons school on track for August 2020

A 2013 photo of Yellowknife's JH Sissons school
A 2013 photo of Yellowknife's JH Sissons school.

Yellowknife’s École JH Sissons is expected to be demolished on or around August 12 this summer, newly published NWT government documents suggest.

The school is being knocked down to make way for a rebuilt facility, expected to reopen to students in the fall of 2022. Hundreds of students will be housed in other schools for the intervening two years.

A request for proposals published this week seeks a contractor to demolish the existing building.

While the August 12 date is only an estimate provided by the NWT government, and is subject to change, there is only a narrow window for the work to take place.



The YK1 school district needs to keep using the building until the end of June, while the developers of the brand new facility are expecting to begin work at the site on October 1.

All demolition work – including the removal of hazardous materials, the knocking down of three buildings, and a thorough clean-up of the site – must take place in the resulting three-month window, at the height of summer, in a predominantly residential area.

“Noise, construction equipment, traffic routes, construction work impacts to neighbouring properties, and public safety must be key considerations while performing this project work,” the territorial government’s request for proposals states.

The expected cost of the work is not given.



Asbestos and lead

Asbestos is already known to be a concern within the present JH Sissons building.

A 2018 report by consultants Associated Environmental, prepared for the YK1 school board, declared 15 of 19 samples taken by the consultants had tested positive for asbestos.

Areas suspected to contain asbestos range from insulation and flooring materials to window putty and parts of the roofing.

Lead paint concentrations on some handrails and floors were also a concern for the consultants, while a range of lights inside JH Sissons also contain mercury.

All relocated students will be housed at École William McDonald Middle School during the two-year period JH Sissons is unavailable.

Adding portable classrooms will give William McDonald the space to accommodate hundreds of extra students. The school currently has 248 students, which is expected to increase to 500 students in 2020-21 and 521 in 2021-22.

The Department of Infrastructure has in the past said if construction takes longer than expected, students may end up moving into the new school in phases as areas are completed.