Getting up in the morning isn’t something Chief Billy Morin’s son takes to easily.
But according to his father, the boy now wakes up each morning excited to go to school.
His son is one of the youngest students at Enoch Cree Nation’s new school, Maskêkosak Kiskinomâtowikamik.
“It’s his first year in school,” Morin told reporters after the opening ceremony Wednesday. “He’s learning Cree. He’s learning drumming. He’s doing stuff that I never did in school or had the opportunity to.”
The $24-million K-12 school opened this month, two years after the First Nation and federal government began working on the project.
“It came together really quick,” Morin said.
But already the school is nearing its capacity of 420 students, he said.
That’s good news, since many students on the reserve were attending schools in Edmonton.
“We’re at 390 and there’s lots of students still coming back,” Morin said. “Lots of our students go to city schools and they want to come back here now, which is really great.”
The school is noticeably more beautiful than the old building and mixes Cree tradition with technology, he said.
“There’s Cree everywhere … on the walls, in the classrooms, in the curriculum; state-of-the-art 3D printers, state-of-the-art smart boards in every classroom; our students also do land-based teaching.
“This morning they were skinning animals in the traditional way, learning from our elders.”
The 60,000-sq.-ft. building includes a career and technology studies shop, learning commons and a cultural room inside a 40-foot teepee made of steel and glass.
“I love coming here because there’s energy in this school; there’s light and it just provides the kids with singing, drumming and reviving our language and our culture,” Morin said.
“This is the hub of our nation now and the core of our town site.”