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New Buckland school represents past and future

Posted: Friday, September 22, 2000

BUCKLAND (AP) -- The new building dominates the skyline of the village. It is a landmark, both physically and mentally for this community of about 450 residents.

The Nunachiam Sissauni School was officially dedicated by the Northwest Arctic Borough School District last week, a new building with a new name. The latest modern school to join the district, with more planned in the years to come. It is home to some 170 students.

The school represents the future, especially for those students who walk through the halls today and tomorrow. Here, they get a better environment and state-of-the-art tools for learning.

It represents the past, in terms of giving the community an opportunity to educate the next generation right here, where they are still close to their roots, where they can still learn their cultural traditions and practice a subsistence lifestyle.

Most of all, it represents community. It is not just a building for the students, but a place for the entire village to gather, to learn, to share.

And community is what turned out here on a rainy Friday, Sept. 15, as did regional and state figures. All were present to commemorate the near completion of the K-12 school.

While work is still ongoing at the high school wing, which was part of the old school building, the rest of the facility is open and in use. Student work lines the walls and students seem at home in their spacious, 45,000-square-foot new campus.

There's room for future expansion of the building, if and when it's necessary. Judging by the large young population of the village -- about 85 percent is under 40 -- it may be needed sooner than later.

The Buckland school marks the second in a districtwide capital projects plan that has already seen the completion of the Selawik school and is looking forward to work on the school in Noorvik in the weeks to come. Other sites slated for projects are Kiana and Kotzebue.

Back in Buckland, the dedication ceremony officially presented the school to the district.

Master of Ceremonies and Nunachiam Sissauni School Principal Eddie Peters handed the microphone over to Charles Mason, district CEO, who thanked everyone for working together on the project.

''Take care of this place,'' said Charles Mason, district CEO. ''It's got to last a long time.''

Mason noted the strong Buckland basketball presence, but added that he would like to see more academic achievement awards for the school, as well sports trophies.

Buckland Mayor Willie Thomas said he was proud of the new school. He took a moment to recognize local State Rep. Reggie Joule and Rep. Eldon Mulder, who is head of the deferred maintenance task force, who were in the audience and instrumental in making the school a reality.

Joule reiterated how desperately the community needed this facility, a theme that was heard over and over throughout the day.

''The old school was full when it was empty,'' joked Joule with a sense of ironic truth residents here know only too well.

In the past few years, more than 100 students were crammed into the school that was filled to about 170 percent capacity. It was noted that students would sometimes do their school work in the halls of the old facility because there was not enough classroom space.

Students said over and over again how much they like their new school.

''It's pretty good,'' said Selam Thomas, a sixth-grader, who added that with the new school came some new rules, or perhaps just rules that weren't discussed as much in the old school, such as no writing on the walls.

The school stands as most modern Arctic structures, on stilts. The muted colors, creme and sea-green, stand out against the reds and browns of autumn's last gasp.

Inside, the building is light and airy. Light and glass give the facility an open and clean appearance. In fact, in 1980, Buckland was known as the cleanest school in the area, with no problems of graffiti.

What may seem futuristic in the classrooms is really just the latest in education technology. Computers glow in classrooms and even a remote control puts basketball nets into place in the gym.

Grade school students are already settled in their new classrooms, while high school students have to wait a little longer for theirs. Now they are using temporary classrooms and will move in when work is completed in November.



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