Still no school in Pukatawagan after the fire that led to its evacuation

All I do is go outside or play my video gamessays Nathaniel Sinclair, 13, who lives in the community, also known as the Mathias Columbus Cree Nation.

The situation is frustrating for Flora Dumas, who has 28 grandchildren. They need to be surrounded by other children. They learn from teachers and children.

Each week, one of Mrs. Dumas’ grandchildren travels eight hours by train to Le Pas, in order to go to school.

He chose [Pukatawagan] as a home, so it breaks her heart to leave for The Pas. He doesn’t want to leave his grandparents to go to school, but we have no choice.

Flora Dumas’ grandson goes to Le Pas every week by train and stays with his family because the school in his community is closed.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jason Empson

Distance learning is not easy in this community, located 710 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg and where not every household has internet access.

Flora Dumas explains that the children still have homework to do, but that is not enough to occupy them all day.

« They are sort of on their own. That’s why there are so many break-ins and so much damage to new buildings. »

A quote from Flora Dumas, grandmother of 28 grandchildren

In July, a forest fire led to the evacuation of this isolated community, which has about 2,500 inhabitants and damaged the power line that supplies it.

The community school was being renovated when the fire struck, says Pukatawagan Director of Education Doris Castel.

Doris Castel to do.

According to Doris Castel, the community must find new ways to educate children while the school remains closed.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Austin Grabish

Renovations to Sakastew School were scheduled to be completed in time for it to open in September, but workers were unable to use their equipment because generators could not provide the energy needed to operate them.

We are told to conserve energy and not use too much of it because we only have diesel generators, dit Doris Castel.

Manitoba Hydro confirmed that it asked the community on September 9 to restrict power use where possible so as not to overload generators.

In the following days, we informed the leaders that construction activities could resume within the community. However, we recommended that tasks such as painting be delayed if possible, for this reasonsays Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen.

He said that after plugging in a third generator last week, the supplier informed the Cree Nation that normal electricity consumption could resume.

Crews are working to replace approximately 63 hydro poles damaged by the wildfire and pruning dangerous trees near the line to ensure its long-term reliability.

If the weather conditions allow it, the objective is to put the power line back on next Saturday, adds Bruce Owen.

Director of Education Doris Castel says the Crown corporation should have installed the third generator sooner.

She has no excuses for not setting it up as quickly as possible.

She hopes the children will be back in school by the end of October, but there is no guarantee construction will be complete by then.

The sign and the school in the background.

The school was to reopen for the start of the school year, but the work continues.

Photo : Radio-Canada

« The positive side is that we will finally enter a renovated school that has been talked about for 10 years. »

A quote from Doris Castel, director of education in Pukataña

Flora Dumas finds it difficult to live without knowing when the school will reopen, because she is only waiting for this so that her grandson no longer has to go to Le Pas.

Despite the distance, education is really important to me and to the children in our communityshe concludes.

With files from Austin Grabish