Progress stalls on a new school for Enterprise
Residents of Enterprise hoped the present NWT government would develop a school in the hamlet but, more than two years in, little progress has been made.
Ahead of the 2019 territorial election, then-mayor Winnie Cadieux said the hamlet had been working with the territory to secure its own school and even had a location in mind – Enterprise’s municipal office building.
Last week, Cadieux, who is part of the Enterprise Education Working Group, told Cabin Radio not much has happened since. She said many people the hamlet had been working with are no longer at the territory’s education department, including the deputy minister (John MacDonald replaced Rita Mueller in July 2021).
“It’s been kind-of a re-educate, catch-up thing,” Cadieux said of the change in personnel. “We’ve had to re-explain ourselves.”
Using the hamlet’s municipal building as a school is not currently an option, Cadieux added. Plans to build a new municipal building are on hold because of the increased price of building materials.
Cadieux said the small size of the hamlet – home to 116 people as of 2021 – means a school in Enterprise is not a priority for the NWT government. The project was not included in the territory’s latest capital budget.
Yet she said it remains an important issue in the hamlet and residents continue to press politicians on the matter. One step could be creating a classroom in Enterprise as an extension of a school in Hay River.
“We’re just trying to move forward as positively as we can every day, trying to gain some ground,” she said.
Briony Grabke, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said the department had met with the Enterprise Education Working Group and South Slave Divisional Education Council about developing a JK to Grade 3 school in Enterprise.
The hamlet, known as the “gateway to the NWT,” is the only community in the territory without a school. Children instead take the bus to Hay River, about half an hour away.
Cadieux said a school in Enterprise would keep the most vulnerable children closer to home, and parents and grandparents could more easily participate in school activities.
“Every other child in the Northwest Territories gets to go to school where their homes are, they don’t have to travel to another school,” she said. “I think it would bring a great comfort level to parents, knowing that if there were something happening with their child at school, they would only be a couple of blocks away instead of miles away.”
Cadieux added that with school closures related to Covid-19 and some parents choosing to keep their children at home even after restrictions were lifted, there are concerns about education gaps. Having a classroom located in Enterprise, she said, could help some children catch up.
“I’m really concerned as to how they’re going to bring a level playing field about when some kids have been in school and some children haven’t,” she said.
Ron Bonnetrouge, the MLA for the Deh Cho riding, did not return Cabin Radio’s request for comment.