SADDLE LAKE – It took decades of effort and finally, Saddle Lake Cree Nation (SLCN) started the construction of a new elementary school on March 14, 2022. Now, the shell of the new school is clear, and the new school is expected to be completed by July of 2023.
Debra Cardinal, superintendent of Schools in Saddle Lake, told Lakeland Today in a Sept. 15 email that the school is designed to embrace and facilitate learning in the 21st century, which involves embracing technologies, “and connects learning to local and global communities through student interaction.”
“The design of the new school incorporates a connection to the Cree way of life and includes land-based learning opportunities,” stated Cardinal. “And links to the Cree culture and language.”
The new elementary school will replace the current elementary school in the Nation built in the 1970s and will provide space for up to 533 kindergarten to Grade 6 students.
Sheila Redcrow, Tribal Administrator with SLCN, said the school will also be developing its own curriculum, particularly with history. “Nobody teaches Treaty, and nobody teaches our language,” she said, explaining the importance of the new school and the development of the curriculum.
Redcrow also mentioned other challenges in education in Saddle Lake, including a lack of internet service for many students and staff. She said that during the pandemic lockdowns, when most schools transitioned to online learning, it was especially difficult in Saddle Lake where a lot of students didn’t have access to internet service.
The new school will provide more time and opportunity for learning and education, said Redcrow.
According to information provided by Cardinal, the name of the school is yet to be decided, and there will be a competition for the new school’s name and logo. Cardinal said the new school project is funded by Indigenous Services Canada with a budget of $26.4 million.
Reimagine Architects, Jen Col Construction, and Ronin Consulting Group is the team supporting SLCN with design and construction of the school.