Attawapiskat First Nation Elementary School - Chronology of Events

This chronology outlines the work AANDC and the First Nation have undertaken to provide a safe environment for children attending elementary school in Attawapiskat First Nation.

The J.R. Nakogee Elementary School opened at Attawapiskat First Nation in 1976 and the Vezina Secondary School opened in 1991.

December 1996 – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) provides $677,330 to Attawapiskat for site clean up. This is in accordance with a signed agreement to remediate soil contaminated by fuel spilled after construction of the elementary school.

November 1997AANDC, with the First Nation, provides a completion report and advises that remediation in the areas near the school and teacherages is complete.

May 11, 2000 – The Attawapiskat First Nation Education Authority, with the support of a Band Council Resolution, closes the J.R. Nakogee Elementary School effective May 11, 2000 due to health and safety concerns. Options are discussed to address the need for new school facilities, as well as further remediation of the elementary school site. Among the options presented, AANDC offers to fully remediate the soil around the existing elementary school and conduct repairs to the school roof, heating and ventilation system.

August 2000AANDC agrees to provide funding for the First Nation's chosen option of temporary school facilities consisting of seven duplex portable classrooms and two four-plex buildings for administration and resource space. Additionally, it is agreed that a thorough review of the contamination will be conducted to determine the extent of the problem.

Fall 2000- January 2005 – Project approval for the temporary elementary school facilities is granted at an estimated cost of $3,288,900. Construction commences in October 2000 and building inspections are completed in March 2001.

The Attawapiskat First Nation Education Authority takes possession of the temporary elementary school on March 31, 2001. The project manager submits the final project completion report in March 2003.

To ensure readiness should future funds for construction become available, AANDC meets with First Nation officials to prepare the terms of reference for a project manager to begin the process required to build a new elementary school. A proposal call is issued and closed on February 17, 2005.

March 3, 2005 – At a meeting in Sudbury, the consultants who submitted proposals are interviewed by the former Chief, the Education Authority and AANDC. A project manager is hired to develop the elementary school capital planning study.

April 2005AANDC funds approximately $250,000 for modifications to the community’s high school to move servicing infrastructure (electrical, computer connections, etc.) from the elementary to the secondary school so that elementary students can have access to these services.

November 21, 2005 – The Attawapiskat First Nation Education Authority submits projections on school enrolment and expenditures for the proposed elementary school. A review of this document finds that enrolment projections are inflated and could not be supported. The proposed school does not conform to the school space accommodation standards with which AANDC must comply.

December 5, 2005 – The Regional Director General for Ontario Region, in a letter to Attawapiskat First Nation, agrees to explore an Alternative to Education Capital Approach to provide the finances necessary to construct an elementary school with the caveat that the project must conform to government standards and guidelines. It is later determined that AANDC did not have the authority to apply the Alternative to Education Capital Approach to this project so this approach could not be used.

March 14, 2006AANDC receives a Band Council Resolution (BCR) requesting funding in the amount of $194,718 to prepare a school capital planning study.

May 15, 2006AANDC issues a funding approval letter confirming funding in the amount of $194,718 to prepare a school capital planning study.

December 4, 2006 – In a letter to the First Nation, the AANDC Minister states that the school capital planning study will be the basis for the Preliminary Project Approval submission. These documents are the next steps in the funding approval process should funds become available. In response to the First Nation's request for a Ministerial Loan Guarantee for a bank loan, the Minister writes that Ministerial Loan Guarantees cannot be used to guarantee loans for schools.

March 2007 – In response to a submission from the First Nation, AANDC approves construction of an addition to the existing high school, including three new classrooms and washrooms. AANDC approves funding ($1,971,500) for this work, which commences in July 2007 and is completed in June 2008.

June 30, 2007AANDC agrees to design year enrolment projection and agrees to the size of the new elementary school should funds for construction become available: 619 students and 5002 square metres.

September 26, 2007AANDC advises the First Nation that the construction of the J. R. Nakogee School is not in AANDC's Ontario Region Long Term Five Year Capital Plan.

November 29, 2007 – The First Nation submits a revised final draft copy of the school capital planning study to the Department. AANDC forwards suggested revisions to the study to the First Nation and awaits the final version of the study.

2008-2009AANDC provides Attawapiskat with $1,083,900 in formula-funded Operations and Maintenance funding (O&M) specifically for the elementary school. First Nations may use school operations and maintenance (O&M) for a variety of activities such as cleaning and custodial costs and minor repairs or maintenance costs. Since 2001-2002 AANDC provides almost $8 million to Attawapiskat in formula-funded O&M (approximately $1 million annually).

April 1, 2008 – Officials from the Minister's Office and the Department meet with the leadership of the First Nation. Again, AANDC officials inform the First Nation that a new elementary school is not in the Ontario Region Long Term Five Year Major Capital Plan.

May 5, 2008 – Attawapiskat First Nation submits a funding application and Band Council Resolution requesting $148,164 for the design stage of the School Demolition Project.

June 12 and 13, 2008AANDC officials meet with the First Nation. At the meeting, terms of reference were developed for a working group to explore alternative sources of funding for a new elementary school, rather than waiting for it to be placed on the Ontario Region's Long Term Five Year Major Capital Plan. The First Nation chooses not to participate in all scheduled meetings. AANDC remains willing to participate in this process.

June 24, 2008 – Health Canada issues an inspection report on the school portables indicating that the current classroom facilities present no health or safety concerns.

June 26, 2008AANDC issues a funding approval letter for the design stage of the elementary school demolition project in the amount of $148,164. The plan for the demolition is complete.

October 31, 2008 – The tender for the actual demolition closes. AANDC provides approximately $850,000 for the demolition project which includes three buildings -the former school, the former water treatment plant and the fire hall- the demolition of which will be delayed until a new fire hall is constructed.

November 24, 2008 - AANDC officials meet with the community and First Nation leaders in Attawapiskat. The First Nation agrees to the plan to demolish the old elementary school.

December 25, 2008 – The First Nation and the Education Authority notifies AANDC that they will no longer participate in the Working Group.

January 23, 2009 – Health Canada holds a meeting in the community to discuss health and safety issues that relate to the demolition project. Health Canada reports the meeting went well and there is general agreement to proceed with the demolition.

February 2009 – Health Canada does health and safety assessments on a routine basis in all First Nation schools. One was conducted in June 2008, and another in February 2009, in both the old elementary school and the elementary school portables in Attawapiskat.

March 2009 – Health Canada environmental health officers provide on-site particulate air sampling during the demolition. Daily testing is done from March 8 to 12 (except March 11 because of a severe winter storm). Results from all test sites do not indicate any health or safety concerns.

March 13, 2009 – Senior AANDC officials from the Ontario regional office hold a conference call with Chief Theresa Hall and two First Nation consultants. AANDC officials commit to expediting the Preliminary Project Approval (PPA) process to allow funds to flow for planning of soil remediation once demolition is completed.

March 16, 2009 – The First Nation notifies AANDC that demolition of the former elementary school in Attawapiskat is complete. Health Canada conducts air quality tests throughout and following the demolition and finds no health or safety concerns. AANDC provides nearly $1 million to plan and complete the demolition. The First Nation selects the contractor.

March 25, 2009 – The First Nation issues a Band Council Resolution (BCR) declaring a state of emergency. Senior officials from both AANDC and Health Canada hold a teleconference with the Chief and Council and it is agreed senior government officials will meet with Chief and Council and residents in the community on March 27, 2009 to discuss concerns.

March 27, 2009 - Federal and provincial officials fly to Attawapiskat First Nation to meet with the community. As the meeting is shorter than originally scheduled, the federal officials agree to return to the community on March 31, 2009.

March 31, 2009 – Federal officials meet with the First Nation Chief and Council and residents a second time in the community. At the meeting, federal officials reconfirm their commitment to work with the community to address its concerns.

April 2, 2009 – The First Nation Chief and Council request assistance from Emergency Management Ontario to evacuate community residents. AANDC officials reiterate the Government of Canada is not supporting an evacuation of the community and asks the leadership of Attawapiskat to allow air quality monitoring in the community.

April 29, 2009 - AANDC makes a commitment of $340,236 for the planning and design of the community's soil remediation project.

July 2009 - Soil sampling and testing is completed. Continuous air quality monitoring is implemented. Both demolition sites (the former elementary school and the old water treatment plant) are capped with clay soil to prevent odours, vapours, and water accumulation.

December 8, 2009 – The First Nation is informed by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that a new school will be built in the community.

February 2010 - Gravel required for construction activities is delivered by winter road. AANDC approves the cost overrun for the school's preliminary project approval submission in the amount of $340,400.

February 25, 2010 - A new working group is formed to advance the elementary school project and assist in decision-making. It begins holding regular meetings which will continue until completion of the elementary school project.

December 7, 2010 - The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development provides assurances in the House of Commons that a new elementary school will be built for Attawapiskat First Nation.

January 6, 2011 – Work begins to update the school's capital planning study, and the company carrying out the work presents initial findings to the First Nation's Chief and Council. An update of the study is expected to be completed by the end of March 2011.

May 19, 2011 – Minister Duncan announces that the Department has set aside funding over the next three years to accelerate progress on the detailed design and construction phases of a new elementary school for Attawapiskat First Nation.

June 2011 - Attawapiskat First Nation completes the update to the school capital planning study and is working with a professional project manager, design consultant and financial account manager to move the project forward.

July 2011 - AANDC approves $3.1 million to complete the design phase of the project which includes a gravel haul to occur in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

October 2011 - The First Nation's design consultant submits a design development submission. The submission provides a floor plan and site plan, and narratives describing the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical requirements of the new 5,808 square-metre building.

December 2011 - A public call for general contractor pre-qualification is initiated by the project team.

January 17, 2012 - The project team evaluates submissions from nine general contractors. Six of the general contractors meet the qualification criteria.

January 25, 2012 - Design phase is complete. The 5,808-square-metre new elementary school is designed to accommodate 540 students from Kindergarten to grade 8 and include a gym with a stage, a library, Cree culture and language facilities, computer labs, a home economics room, an industrial arts classroom, a music room, and a cafeteria.

January 26, 2012 - The Attawapiskat First Nation commences the tender period for the general construction contract.

February 7, 2012 - A pre-tender site visit with pre-qualified general contractors is conducted.

February 22, 2012 - Tender bidding closes.

March 2, 2012 - The Attawapiskat First Nation issues a letter of intent to Penn-Co Construction Canada (2003) Ltd. indicating its intention to hire the contractor to construct the new school.

March 6, 2012: Attawapiskat First Nation and the Minister jointly announce that the contract to construct the new elementary school has been awarded by the Attawapiskat First Nation to Penn-Co Construction Canada (2003) Ltd. When completed, the 5,808-square-metre new school will accommodate 540 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

June 22, 2012: Departmental officials attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the new elementary school at Attawapiskat First Nation.

June 29, 2012: Attawapiskat First Nation awards a contract to WER Inc. to remediate approximately 41,000 cubic metres of soil at four sites (the former elementary school, the former water treatment plant, the teacherages, and the abandoned fuel supply lines). AANDC is providing approximately $2.7 million in funding towards the $12.3 million cost of the remediation project, with the remaining $9.6 million coming from the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan.

As of September 26, 2013: The new elementary school project remains on budget and is targeted for completion in June 2014. With respect to the soil contamination project at the former elementary school, the project remains on schedule and the clean up portion is anticipated to be complete by March 2016. The project requires two active construction seasons followed by two seasons of soil treatment (summers 2014 and 2015) at the off-site facility located near the First Nation’s waste disposal site.