School's in: New Cape Dorset high school opens 1 year ahead of schedule

The new Cape Dorset Peter Pitseolak High School opened its doors on Sept. 10, one year ahead of schedule.

Youth playing with fire burned the school down in September 2015. Since then, high school students have been studying in the community's elementary school and in modular classrooms.

In 2016 the Nunavut government put out a request for proposals for a $34 million replacement building. At the time, the project was not expected to be completed until 2019.

Construction of the new building began in April 2017 and wrapped up just in time for this school year.

Eager to catch a glimpse of the new building, members of the community swarmed inside after the doors opened, where they were greeted by music, warm smiles and new memories.

Daniel Sharpe, a teacher at the school, said he's happy to see past faces return.

Travis Burke/CBC

"There were a lot of students that came back to the community or [who] were re-registered, ones that just hadn't attended for a couple of years were showing up," Sharpe said. "I've got students now that I haven't seen in two years."

The school is a modern, state-of-the-art education facility, with a gymnasium, science laboratory and resource centre. The new school was designed with fire-proofing in mind.

"This school is protected with a fully integrated fire suppression system, which means there are sprinklers throughout the entire school," said Rob Hellstrom, senior project manager with Kudlik Construction.

"There's sensors, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, heat detectors throughout the entire school."

Travis Burke/CBC

The school is named for the Inuit photographer, carver and artist, Peter Pitseolak, whose photos and books documented the rapidly changing Inuit way of life.

Cape Dorset, on Baffin Island's southern coast, is home to about 1,400 people. There are approximately 200 students enrolled in the school.

With files from Travis Burke