Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lake St. Martin kids due back in class today

An interim permit expected for building

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Lake St. Martin students are due back in class in their rented St. James school this morning after a snag Monday delayed the occupancy permit for the building.

Some 65 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 were expected to return to school Monday, 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.

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 school division to a private developer, has had some repairs done 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 Monday the permit was yet to be issued. A final inspection was scheduled for later Monday, and an interim permit was to be issued later, pending final repairs to meet the fire code.

Chief Adrian Sinclair said a new chimney is being shipped to the school and it's expected it will be installed Dec. 23. In the meantime, space heaters are supplying heat as before the shutdown. The difference now is the temperature is being monitored better to ensure even heat, he said.

Manitoba Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson urged the First Nation on Friday to ensure the students resumed classes and a provincial spokesman said Monday the province is pleased the kids are returning to school.

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 Monday the chief said the community wants the students to stay together.

During the disruption, most of the students attended classes elsewhere. Students in grades 5 to 9 have been holding classes at the First Nation's band offices in Winnipeg, Sinclair said Monday. That's where they were Monday, too.

Monday, officials corrected initial numbers that put the student body at 85. There are 65 students from kindergarten to Grade 9, reporters were told.

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.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2012 A5

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