The Kainai Board of Education (KBE) on the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta is replacing its Aahsaopi Elementary School with a new and more modern facility.
Located in Levern, a community about halfway between Cardston and Stand Off, the school opened in 1991.
It’s the oldest school in the district and officials say it has its fair share of problems.
“It was identified that we did have some structural deficiencies in the school,” explained superintendent Cam Shade. “In the gymnasium, the wall is starting to separate, so we are starting to see some cracks in the wall. We are (also) experiencing some underground flooding.”
According to Shade, a recent assessment projected substantial growth in the community, meaning a new, larger school is also needed to accommodate the growing population of young people.
“I believe within the next couple of years, we’re looking at upwards of about 500 students.”
The school currently has around 200 students enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 5.
“We’re building it for longevity and really taking into account the population explosion we’re going to see here,” Shade added.
The new school with be located directly next to the existing building, and will feature geothermal heating, solar capabilities and views of Chief Mountain.
The project is being funded by Blood Tribe Chief and Council and Indigenous Services Canada, who provided $36 million for the project.
Mike Bruised Head, chair for the KBE, was a key player in getting this project off the ground.
After many meetings and discussions with the government and other parties, the time has finally come for shovels to hit the ground.
Bruised Head said he hopes the new school will help inspire young students to continue their educational journeys.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them,” he said of the students.
“(To give) them a good future. There are too many sad stories you know, and hopefully, this will springboard them to completing school and going off to higher education, higher learning.”
“It’s nice to be dignitaries and to be here for a groundbreaking ceremony, but it’s (all about seeing) the smiles on the children’s faces,” said Indigenous Services Canada representative Michael Oostendorp. “And to think in two years we’ll have a new school for them and for future generations.”
Aahsaopi is one of six schools under the Kainai Board of Education. The second-oldest is Tatsikiisaapo’p Middle School.