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NLESD CEO 'cautiously optimistic' St. John's metro schools will reopen Monday

Newfoundland and Labrador English School District staff were at Bishop Abraham Elementary in St. John's Friday preparing for the school's eventual reopening.
Newfoundland and Labrador English School District staff were at Bishop Abraham Elementary in St. John's Friday preparing for the school's eventual reopening. - Andrew Robinson

Parents should watch for updates Sunday on potential changes to bus routes

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The K-12 school system in Newfoundland and Labrador has experienced its share of class time disruptions over the years, but Tony Stack considers the six days lost from last Friday's massive blizzard to be fairly unprecedented for the St. John's metro region.

"It's not unfamiliar to us, but certainly it's not something that's normal for St. John's," the CEO for Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) told The Telegram Friday, just before the city announced it was lifting its state of emergency Saturday morning at 6 a.m.

That said, he remains hopeful all the work necessary to get students safely into school this Monday will get done, cautioning there are some factors that could complicate matters yet.

"I will use the term cautiously optimistic. We have been in contact with municipalities in the greater St. John's region, and those outside St. John's such as Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, Flatrock, Paradise, we've been dealing with on a regular basis. Those communities are reporting that their routes are generally cleared, although widening is continuing through the weekend. There may be some areas where there may be interference on a route for a bus to transit or turn around. We're working with the municipalities there to identify those areas. If there are any route adjustments that have to be made, they will be communicated prior to Monday.

"With respect to St. John's, we recognize that inside the city proper, there is a huge challenge. There is a lot of work still to be done, and we are liaising closely with the city in that regard. Again, we're cautiously optimistic all of the areas, including St. John's, will be in a condition that we can allow students to safely return on buses and via pedestrian traffic on Monday. However, it is a special time. There's going to be a lot of activity on that day. We really want to emphasize that the motoring public needs to slow down and be extra vigilant. There's still impeded views in certain areas, so we have to be very, very cautious."

Parents are asked to keep an eye out Sunday for messages from schools about potential bus route changes or any other news regarding Monday. NLESD will also share information on bus route changes online Sunday on a special student transportation web page at www.nlesd.ca.

NLESD did receive emergency clearance from the City of St. John's earlier in the week to allow facilities staff to inspect the schools and begin clearing entranceways.

"The lots and things are covered by contract, so that's a separate activity, and that occurred early on. Our schools’ lots are cleared, and then the external access and all of the fire exits are being cleared as we speak,"  Stack said, adding some of the latter work may continue into the weekend.

As for damage to school properties related to the blizzard, NLESD came out of the storm relatively unscathed.

"We got the awning down here at (NLESD) headquarters, which had a little bit of damage, but that's being repaired," he said. "There was no significant damage to any of our schools, fortunately. We lost some internet service in schools that weren't open yet, and that's being rectified."

With the loss of six days in the St. John's metro area in addition to one day earlier this winter, NLESD has already looked at some ways to make up for lost class time. An upcoming professional development day for teachers has been postponed, and upcoming mid-term, final and public exams due to start Jan. 27 on the Avalon Peninsula were pushed back to Feb. 3.

"This is not unfamiliar to us in terms of lost days," he again noted. "We've had a significant amount of time lost on occasion over the years, and when those things happen we also look at discretionary activities that can be limited or eliminated. We look at ways to compress the curriculum to more efficiently look at covering the curriculum outcomes, and we've got some brilliant school administrators and some really creative teachers that we rely on to do that, and we have total confidence that they'll be able to do that."

andrew.robinson@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @CBNAndrew

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