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Few students show up for school reopening

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Nobody told the kids.

Some 65 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 were expected to return to school this morning, with aboriginal chiefs, including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader Derek Nepinak, on hand to celebrate the event.

The politicians came and two or three children were dropped off clutching paper bags in their hands, ignoring reporters and TV cameras, as they trooped into the school entrance where school staff were present.

But the bulk of the student body didn’t show up. Neither did the school bus.

Lake St. Martin students had their schooling interrupted Nov. 2 when the city found the St. James building they rented failed fire code standards.

The former St. James school, sold a year ago by the local school division to a private developer, has had some of the repairs finished since the shutdown.

An announcement said parents, local leaders and aboriginal chiefs were expected at the school, at 1970 Ness Ave, at 9 a.m. Monday.

The First Nation said it had a permit to allow the rented premises to operate again as a school, but officials at the school confirmed today the permit is yet to be issued. A final inspection is scheduled for later today.

Sinclair said a new chimney is being shipped to the school but it is not expected to be installed until Dec. 23. In the meantime, space heaters are supplying heat as they were before the shutdown.

Manitoba’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson urged the First Nation on Friday to ensure the students resumed classes.

The province, working with the federal government offered three alternative locations within days of the school shutting down.

The First Nation insisted it wanted to keep its own school and today the chief said the community wants the students to stay together.

During the disruption, most of the students attended classes elsewhere. Students in grades five to nine have been holding classes at the First Nation’s band offices in Winnipeg, Chief Adrian Sinclair said today.

That’s where they were today, too.

Today offficials corrected initial numbers that put the student body at 85; there are 65 students from kindergarten to grade nine.

Half a dozen First Nations are among the 1,986 people still displaced by the 2011 flood. Lake St. Martin is the only First Nation running its own school off-reserve.

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