Kawennio/Gaweniyo language immersion school is chronically underfunded in operations and maintenance.
The school has to run a deficit just to cover its rent, Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council’s finance committee heard.
“It’s really threatening to run an organization when it’s so insecure like that,” said Ruby Jacobs, chair of the Kawennio/Gaweniyo board.
She asked elected council if it establish an annual budget to fund the school’s operations and maintenance.
“This has been going on for years and years,” she said. “We can’t seem to establish an annual funding budget. This has been very difficult for us.”
Kawennio/Gaweniyo is a privately-run Mohawk and Cayuga language immersion school that was created about 30 years ago. It has never had its own permanent building and currently rents space at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena.
They’re looking to build their own school at a cost of around $30 million but they’re short of funds,
Board member Arnold Jacobs said every year it’s a struggle to get operations funding for the school.
“Thirty years is long enough to go through the motions of being unstable for us. We need something solidified, like yesterday.”
The school cost $3.9 million to run last year.
“We would like our funding identified clearly on an annual basis,” Ruby said. “It’s been a rocky road trying to find our budget every year.”
Jessica Bomberry, the new executive director of Kawennio/Gaweniyo, said the bank is asking them for a letter from council guaranteeing they’ll get enough funding to cover their expenses as they operate in a deficit.
She also said the school had a meeting with Indigenous Services Canada and they learned that funding is determined per square foot.
She asked if they could include the floor space at the ILA, and even the facilities at Dajoh, where students go every day, as part of their square footage in order to get more funding.
“The amount we’re getting from o and m isn’t enough to cover our rent at ILA,” she said, adding that ISC encouraged them to re-calculate their floor space.
Public Works Director Micheal Montour said federal schools on Six Nations are funded at $75 per square meter, but they’re still left with a shortfall up to $500,000 every year.
“For the most part, they’ve been able to adjust at the end of the year,” he said. I would encourage you to figure out what you use at ILA, even the entrance way. If you need support, I’m happy to support, as well.”
He said his department would assist with the measurements.
Bomberry said the school currently gets about $40,000 a year for operations and maintenance, but the it costs about $5,000 a month for rent, so they’re already short at the beginning of the year,.
Jacobs said an update on the Kawennio/Gaweniyo school build funding is coming on Nov. 15.