A place to grow and learn

The Yaqan Nukiy School in Creston, B.C., has a new building

The Yaqan Nukiy School at the Ktunaxa reserve in Creston, B.C., has recently opened a new school building.

The Yaqan Nukiy School at the Ktunaxa reserve in Creston, B.C., has recently opened a new school building. — Photo courtesy Yaqan Nukiy School

The Yaqan Nukiy School in the Creston Valley was one of the early First Nation schools to begin operation in the 1970s. It originally was run out of the old band office until it moved into its own building in 1982. The school has continually evolved over the years. Today it serves kindergarten through grade 7 and also added a preschool recently.

While the school expanded and changed, however, it had remained located in the building that had housed it for over two decades. In the 2012/2013 school year, Yaqan Nukiy school had 23 registered students. For the 2015/2016 year, the school has 74 students in addition to 10 preschool attendees. Given the exponential growth, it eventually became clear that a new building was needed.

“We went through various processes talking about integrating ATCO (trailers) or portables, but I think it was probably January (of 2015 ) when we finally entered the process of working towards the new building,” said Karen Smith, director of education at Yaqan Nukiy School. “We started with sketches that I had made and it sort of grew from there.”

Nelson Rocha, an architect with Studio 9 Architecture + Planning in Nelson, B.C., did the simple but stunning design work, and construction began on the building the following August. King Creek Construction, a local company based in Creston, B.C., was contracted to do the build. They had previously done work for Yaqan Nukiy School and were completing the Lower Kootenay Band Round House, also on the Lower Kootenay Band reserve.

“(King Creek Construction) does really, really great work,” said Smith. The company was able to finish a month ahead of schedule, which allowed the Yaqan Nukiy School to begin holding classes in the new building following spring break 2016.

Smith is looking forward to fully utilizing the new school spaces. The classrooms have ductwork visible in the ceilings, the result of meeting the furnace and air return codes for a school. However, each room has been designated a bright primary colour with which the duct work and doors have been painted. It brings a fun vibe to the classrooms and students can easily identify each room by colour—in fact they have already nicknamed the green room as the “pickle room.”

A group of children are sitting in a circle around a drum. All the children have a drumstick in hand and are participating in beating the drum.

Yaqan Nukiy School expects to reach capacity at about 80 students in upcoming years and welcomes off-reserve students. — Photo courtesy Yaqan Nukiy School

The yellow preschool room offers a particularly opportune upgrade for the staff and the surrounding community. The preschool occupies the room for only two hours a day for Monday through Thursday and it can be booked by the community or utilized for staff meetings.

Classified as a band-operated independent school, Yaqan Nukiy also accepts off-reserve students and has seen interest grow over the years. Moving forward, the school will be capping class size at 16 students and most grades share a combined classroom. Smith anticipates reaching capacity at about 80 students in upcoming years. She said that she is looking forward to helping the elementary school reach its potential and focusing on offering the best education possible.

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen studied at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook and has worked in a variety of industries, from agriculture to construction, retail to restaurants. She now brings her understanding of the area to Kootenay Business magazine. View all of Kristen Mitchell’s articles

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