TCUSD breaks ground on school in Gap<br>
Tsinaabaas Ha’bitiin Elementary School did not arrive easily at this community. It has been a 12-year process starting with acquiring the land from several entities to accommodate the 30-acre project. That was only the first step to getting final approval for the school site.
Next, archaeological studies had to be completed and approved by the Navajo Nation at Window Rock, with a final sign off for the request of land from the Bodaway/Gap local chapter officials. This was finalized on Nov. 18, 2001 and contained the signatures of President Billy Arizona Vice President Mervin Hardy and three additional chapter officials.
The construction for the new school, which will accommodate kindergarten through fifth grade, will commence immediately. The site is two miles east of the Gap Chapter House and west of the Coppermine Boundary fence.
Lewis delivered the groundbreaking opening address at the Bodaway/Gap Chapter House with Dr.Tahu and Dr. Begay, following up with comments about the lengthy process and how many community people who made a difference in the successful lobbying for the money and services needed to bring this community dream to life.
“I want to thank my staff here at the current Gap School, Jane Lanza, Michelle Blackhat, Mary Chissie, Bessie Tsingine, Eva Lane, Max Graymountain, Ernestina Numkena, because this is not only a historic event but an important event for this community,” Lewis said. “It has been 12 years in the making.
“Our local leadership and TCUSD No. 15 administration never gave up hope, and today we are planting the seeds of a new tomorrow. This is certainly a milestone for Tuba City District.”
She underscored the signifigance of the event.
“This groundbreaking event has inspired and motivated all of us, because there is nothing more beautiful than the experience of learning,” Lewis said. “If you can just imagine how beautiful this school building will be, I am sure you will agree that it is an awesome sight.
“I thank each and everyone of you for being with us today.”
Owens also took the time to speak to the completely packed chapter house that day.
“I can remember a time when the Navajo grandmas of this community used to bring in charcoal for the kids to write with,” Owens said. “It has taken that kind of personal support to make this dream come true, now there will be a new school.
“I want to thank you for inviting me to be a part of this very special ceremony. You have shown that you understand and know that its extremely important to put your students first.”
Dr. Tahu directed his comments to the local residents.
“ I am reminded of the many people in this community as I drive by this place,” he said. “The new school represents your care and continued involvement of your children.
“You know that education is important. We know that school is not just a place with four walls. The world is our classroom, and your continued involvement will be needed even after the new school is built.”
Dr. Tahu encouraged community involvement.
“We need your help with classroom activities. Come to the school, see the exhibits that your children create,” he said. “It will demonstrate what they know and what they can do.
“TCUSD is interested in using more of our culture to learn and educate. We welcome the grandmas and grandpas of the community. You are the special people in your own families and are important to the overall success of the new Tsinaabaas Habitiin Elementary School.”
Guest Speaker for the event, Sen. Jackson, spoke of his own education experience and how that changed his own outlook on communities and their involvement with students.
“Education is a must,” he said. “We must place a high priority on this. Natives need to develop our own educational system — one that validates our own cultural values, ideas.
“Western education is missing a critical native element. There is no western classroom teaching on character development, one where you learn how to be a good person, but this is part of the native educational experience.
“We must learn to trust our own instincts and start to develop our own curriculum if we are to survive in this world. I am honored to be here with you today on this historic occasion.”
McCabe also took the time to thank former Principal of the Gap/Dzil Libei Schools Richard Bermudes. Bermudes left TCUSD last year to work closer to his home in Phoenix, but he made the long journey to Gap to share in the special event. Community members acknowledged him as a longtime supporter of the new school idea.
“I am originally from this Coppermine area, and when I was small, I used to herd sheep here, so I am really, really grateful for everyone who is making this new school possible,” McCabe said. “I never thought I would see the community change and support a new facility, but its happening and I am lucky to be able to be a part of it.”
The Marine Junior ROTC Color Guard of Tuba City High School, under the direction of Sgt. Timothy Shaner, was also on hand to assist in the posting of colors for this ceremony, with a special Thanksgiving meal prepared by TCUSD Food Services for the entire community. Evelyn Acothley, community member, made the closing remarks and Hardy gave final benediction.