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Gymnasium coming soon for Nisga’a students

GITWINKSIHLKW – Students at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary school in the Nisga’a School District will soon have a new gymnasium of their own.

“This is an important opportunity to encourage the many benefits of structured play and team sports. We know that play and sport are critical to improved learning, co-operation, leadership and physical development,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, in a news release. “It also furthers our efforts to build truth, equity and reconciliation into education across the province, while meeting our climate-action goals. This space, run by and for Nisga’a people, will be built to LEED Gold standards and demonstrates our commitment to Indigenous students and Indigenous communities.”

Gitwinksihlkw Elementary school is a small kindergarten-to-Grade 7 school serving the local community and celebrating Nisga’a language and culture. It was built in 1995 without a gym. Students have been using the Ts’oohl Ts’ap Memorial Centre, which is shared, requires scheduling and is not fully accessible.

The student population of Gitwinksihlkw is 100 per cent Indigenous with the majority of staff being from the local Nisga’a Nation in the Nass Valley. The school offers Nisga’a language and culture classes to the students to teach them about their heritage and keep the Nisga’a language alive.

“A priority for our board is upholding the Nisga’a vision of education, which includes offering language and culture programs for all students so that they come to know and understand the rich connections between land, language, and culture,” said Elsie Davis, board chair, Nisga’a School District. “This vision encourages equitable and inclusive schools that focus on the whole child – mind, body, heart and spirit. Having an accessible gymnasium at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary school will support us in meeting the needs of each child, while also having a space that will be available to the community for ceremony and celebration.”

The Government of B.C. will contribute more than $6.3 million for the project. The new gymnasium will be accessible and includes mechanical and electrical systems that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and utility costs. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2022 and be ready for occupancy for September 2023.

The gym will be available for cultural and community use as well, like sports teams, dance groups, educational conferences, the YMCA, the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority and other local groups. Other community celebrations, such as the Nisga’a new year, Hoobiyee, will be held in the gym and the space will be used for post-secondary training by the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute.

The board of education is committed to the principles of Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+), considering factors like race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age and mental or physical disability. For this project, the district hopes to address accessibility issues on the site and add a gender-neutral washroom facility.

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