Ermineskin Ehpewapahk Alternative School
Inspiration is the first lesson of the day for students as they walk through the newly built
Ehpewapahk Alternative School for the Ermineskin Cree Nation. Fitted with the latest technology including smart boards and solar power, this will be the launching pad for students heading out into the world to make their mark.
Ermineskin Cree Nation Community is in Maskwacis, Alberta, 70km south of Edmonton and community leadership is passionate about educating the community’s youth and supporting students in getting their diplomas. “At one time, we thought graduating a couple students a year was a good thing, but it’s not that way anymore. It’s a graduating class! These students are set up way better for life given the tools in the classroom,” says Bernard Gauthier, Ermineskin School Project Manager.
The Ehpewapahk Alternative School program has been highly successful, and the new school facility is a mirror of that success. “The new building reflects how important this program is to the community,” says Brian Wildcat, Ermineskin Ehpewapahk Community Superintendent.
Previously the school operated out of tired portables from 1995 that needed to be replaced. Our goal was to create a space that inspires and supports students. We designed the school with four classrooms, study rooms, a library, a workout facility, a commercial sized kitchen, staff lounge and offices plus a comfortable space for students to lounge and relax. A beautiful sun graphic adorns the floor of the main entrance, enhanced by an overhead rotunda. These features honour the school name Ehpewapahk, which translates into “Morning Sun.”
It was essential we maintained steady communication and cooperation with Ermineskin Cree Nation in creating a space to support students, staff and education for the community. “ATCO did a good job. The design process was very efficient. I had confidence in them because they’ve done this before. They were very good about working as a team and adapting to changes,” says Gauthier.
We used modular technology manufactured in a factory controlled setting, then transported to Ermineskin Cree Nation and erected on-site. The attractive school exterior was created with the use of brick and metal siding. “I’m used to traditional builds and I was shocked that they were able to make modular technology look like real classrooms. I was surprised by the speed and the quality,” says Gauthier “When those students walk into the school on the first day, they’re going to say ‘Wow, this is nice!’.”
We maximized the use of local labour, including student alumni, to support local enterprise and keep money within the community. The facility started site work in May and was completed on time and on budget for the 2017 fall semester.
Ermineskin Cree Nation Councillor Ryan Ermineskin says, “The previous school wasn’t the best learning environment, but the students were still willing. We’re showing them that we care and I think the new school will inspire them to achieve their goals, get their diploma and find their way.”
Location: Maskwacis, AB
Client: Ermineskin Cree Nation - MIYO School Board (now MESC)
Square footage: 10,700 square feet
Units: 10 modular units
Features: Completed in four months