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Leech Lake applies to have Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School building replaced

CASS LAKE — The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe said Wednesday it has formally submitted its application to the U.S. Department of the Interior to replace its dilapidated Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School located in Bena.

The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School's run-down conditions have been documented in numerous local, regional and national media reports, a release from the band said. "Rotten flooring, poor insulation, rodent infestation, broken heaters, and substandard and exposed wiring are just the tip of a very large iceberg that makes up the overarching adverse situation at the Bureau of Indian Education-funded school," the release said.

The band's School Board received a signed letter of support for its replacement application from every member of Minnesota's Congressional delegation including, Sens Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. John Kline, Tim Walz, Erik Paulsen, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tom Emmer, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan.

The elementary school is structurally sound as is the Niigaane Ojibwe Immersion School located on the same grounds in Bena. The high school is originally a pole barn that was built as an auto maintenance and bus garage, but was turned into the high school building in 1984.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chair Carri Jones stated in the release, "We're looking forward to a speedy and affirmative reply from the Interior Department so our dilapidated school will be replaced.

"This fall, students will be returning to the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School facing horrible conditions, such as rotten flooring, poor insulation and rodent infestation. Their safety is at the top of our list of concerns, along with their education and future. In addition, we are particularly grateful to Minnesota's federal congressional delegation's letter of support, and their hard work on behalf of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and our kids."

The federal Bureau of Indian Education announced earlier in the year that 78 BIE-funded schools have been determined to be eligible applicants for the No Child Left Behind Act new school replacement. The National Review Committee will review the applications for school replacement in the coming months and then choose and invite finalist applicants to Albuquerque, N.M., to present their funding requests with the BIE.