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New Attawapiskat school closed more than a month after sprinkler system flooded building

A new school in a remote northern Ontario indigenous community has been closed for more than a month after a malfunctioning sprinkler system flooded the building. A sign welcomes visitors at the Attawapiskat airport in the remote northern Ontario community, in an April 18, 2016, file photo.
A new school in a remote northern Ontario indigenous community has been closed for more than a month after a malfunctioning sprinkler system flooded the building. A sign welcomes visitors at the Attawapiskat airport in the remote northern Ontario community, in an April 18, 2016, file photo. Colin Perkel / The Canadian Press

A new school in a remote northern Ontario indigenous community has been closed for more than a month after a malfunctioning sprinkler system flooded the building.

Band council members in Attawapiskat First Nation say the break inside the $30 million elementary school, the only one available to serve the roughly 400 students in the community, leaving much of one floor under water.

Chief Executive Wayne Turner says there have been no classes since the sprinkler malfunctioned on Jan. 7.

READ MORE: Attawapiskat chief: Trudeau government ‘is listening,’ but new funding isn’t enough

He says repairs to the building are underway and hopes students will be back in the school in a matter of weeks.

The triumphant opening of the school in 2014 put an end to a 14-year period during which the community had to teach its youngest students in portable classrooms due to a lack of proper facilities.

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Turner says the latest setback, one of many for a community that’s been grappling with a youth suicide crisis and a chronic housing shortage, is very disheartening.