École JH Sissons was remembered and celebrated on Friday in a ceremony honouring the 45-year-old facility before its demolition this summer.
A range of dignitaries paid tribute. “This school is so much more. It’s about the people. It’s all the memories,” said Mayor Rebecca Alty, a former student.
A gathering limited to 50 people – to abide by the NWT’s latest Covid-19 public health orders – was held outside the school in blustery conditions.
Construction on the existing JH Sissons building began in March 1974 and the elementary school opened in November 1975. It has been a French immersion-only school since 2008.
Once the school is demolished, two years will be spent constructing a new facility. The new-look school is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2022.
“I know how challenging this construction period is going to be. There are going to be challenges for families, for students, and for staff. But you get to come back to this brand new school and make new memories,” Alty said.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green, noting JH Sissons first opened in the year that Saturday Night Live premiered on US television, described the school as “the heart of the neighbourhood.”
“It’s remarkable to think about the school that will be here in two or three years’ time,” Green said, “a school equipped with all the technology that is now standard in classrooms, that will provide the greatest learning opportunity for students.
“This is an exciting moment.”
Most students will move to William McDonald Middle School, where additional portable classrooms are due to arrive in August, during the two years of construction. Some will move to Sir John Franklin High School.
Though a small group of parents recently wrote to the YK1 school board and territorial government asking for demolition to be postponed – to provide extra space while physical distancing is required during the pandemic – officials have made clear that demolition will proceed as planned.
Attendees at the École JH Sissons facility’s farewell ceremony. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Tina Drew, centre, chair of the YK1 board of trustees, speaks at the farewell ceremony for École JH Sissons. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio