WFN celebrates grand re-opening of sənsisyustən school

$9 million expansion and solar project

Westbank First Nation (WFN) celebrated the grand re-opening of its sənsisyustən House of Learning elementary school following the completion of a $9 million expansion and renovation including the addition of rooftop solar. The project was primarily funded through the Indigenous Services Canada innovation fund, in addition to WFN’s own source revenue and the Province of B.C.’s clean energy business fund.

“The school has played a key role in creating a strong foundation for our community since its initial construction of four classrooms in 1994,” says Chief Chris Derickson. “Enrollment has increased over the past twenty years, triggering the need for additional space. The improvements will ensure the quality and availability of our education and culture programs in order to meet the growing needs of our community.”

The project provided for the addition of five classrooms, bringing the total to nine after expansion. Additions and upgrades include a language and computer room, learning assistance room, expanded administration, storage and entry areas, replacement and upgrade of the fire protection and mechanical systems, exterior lighting, new roofing, and the installation of solar panels. There were other additional interior and exterior renovations, as well as road, bicycle and pedestrian access modifications.

Along with the Indigenous Services Canada funding, which WFN was one of only nine communities across Canada to receive, a $150,000 equity investment from the Province’s Clean Energy Business Fund provided WFN the opportunity to install approximately 300 rooftop solar panels on the school. Once operational, the system will be connected to BC Hydro's distribution system, becoming part of BC Hydro’s net metering program, and is expected to offset about $12,000 in annual utility costs.

“This is an important pilot project for the WFN community,” says Chief Derickson. “To successfully harness the energy of the sun, for electricity in our community core, opens the door for future renewable opportunities.”

The sənsisyustən expansion and solar project also meets key priorities of WFN’s current Government Strategic Plan including support of education, culture, language and the school itself; as well as meeting the priorities of the school for increased capacity and leveraging partnerships.

Through quality education, in balance with cultural programming, sənsisyustən is open to all families in the community and provides students a strong connection to WFN’s Pine Acres elders care facility. With capacity to reach 120 students or more, thanks to Federal and Provincial funding, along with community contributions, the school's future is certainly bright.

About sənsisyustən House of Learning: The sənsisyustən House of Learning is a Group 2 Independent Elementary School providing BC curriculum with integrated syilx (Okanagan) perspectives. It opened in 1994, and offers Junior Kindergarten to grade 5 classes. It is a private school open to all students, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, living on or off reserve. Its mission is to deliver a superior, flexible, learner-centered education, enriched by the syilx teachings, language and culture. For more information, visit