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Stu­dents could re­turn to Syd­ney el­e­men­tary school Feb. 22


Stu­dents, par­ents and staff were back in­side Brook­land El­e­men­tary for the first time since the dev­as­tat­ing Thanks­giv­ing Day floods Tues­day night, and for Glenna MacNeil, the news couldn’t have been much bet­ter.

The Grade 5 stu­dent learned — along with the other ap­prox­i­mately 150 peo­ple at­tend­ing the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board public up­date in the school gym­na­sium — that classes could re­sume there in two weeks.

“I’ve been here my whole en­tire life as a stu­dent — for all my six years of hav­ing ed­u­ca­tion,” said the en­thu­si­as­tic 10-year-old Syd­ney res­i­dent. “I would love to see my class­room once again and I’ll be with all my favourite teach­ers.”

Of course, MacNeil will be re­turn­ing to a much dif­fer­ent school if stu­dents re­turn Feb. 22 fol­low­ing the Her­itage Day long week­end, ac­cord­ing to the school board’s plan.

The en­tire lower floor, which school board di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tional ser­vice Paul Old­ford de­scribed as the “heart of the build­ing,” was flooded by more than four feet of mud and wa­ter dur­ing the Oct. 10 storm and will re­main closed un­til ren­o­va­tions are com­plete.

That means MacNeil and the other ap­prox­i­mately 330 stu­dents will re­volve through a mix­ture of reg­u­lar and makeshift classes in the main level. While school prin­ci­pal Joyce Lively de­scribed it as “cosy,” she said it’s im­por­tant for stu­dents to re­turn to the “Brook­land school com­mu­nity” af­ter at­tend­ing classes at Ship­yard and Har­bour­side el­e­men­tary schools for the past few months.

“Although our chil­dren are man­ag­ing in the al­ter­na­tive sites, they’re not thriv­ing as we would hope,” she said. “As a prin­ci­pal, I have seen a lot of stress and anx­i­ety in chil­dren that doesn’t need to ex­ist. When we come back un­der one roof and we be­come a Brook­land school com­mu­nity once again, I think a lot of those stresses and anx­i­eties will be re­lieved. That’s what we’re work­ing to­ward.”

Dur­ing the meet­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from lo­cal con­sult­ing firms Exp and Amec re­ported that the school and its grounds are safe for stu­dents. No oil was found in the flood­wa­ters, but holes had to be drilled into the cin­der blocks to flush out any con­tam­i­nants and one piece of play­ground equip­ment will be cleaned and tested again af­ter a step tested pos­i­tive for fe­cal co­l­iform. While most par­ents seemed sat­is­fied that the build­ing is safe af­ter be­ing given the all-clear by the Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice and pass­ing its fi­nal air qual­ity test last week, there were con­cerns about con­struc­tion noise dis­rupt­ing classes, some­thing Old­ford said the school staff and board will work to min­i­mize.

Wayne MacKay, whose daugh­ters Bai­ley, 7, and Mag­gie, 5, at­tend the school, said he was more wor­ried about the school flood­ing again.

“The bot­tom floor is kind of down in a trench and it was very easy for wa­ter to come in last time, so if we get an­other rain event like that, the same thing is go­ing to hap­pen again. We don’t want to go through all this again, ob­vi­ously,” he said.

“I am con­cerned about the noise from the con­struc­tion but if the grounds are clean and the build­ing is clean, then I’m not too con­cerned about it. I’m just think­ing long term about the next time it rains like that.”

Tr­ish O’Neill, whose home on nearby St. Peter’s Road home was deemed un­in­hab­it­able af­ter the flood, won­dered why Brook­land is safe to re­open when the Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre went un­der the wreck­ing ball just a block down the road. She won­dered if the prov­ince is throw­ing good money af­ter bad by re­pair­ing Brook­land and then turn­ing it into a mid­dle school af­ter Sher­wood Park closes in Novem­ber 2020.

Old­ford said the Southend Com­mu­nity Cen­tre had to be de­mol­ished mainly be­cause of con­struc­tion is­sues.

“It had noth­ing to do with its lo­ca­tion, or the fact that it was in the flood zone — it had ev­ery­thing to do with it had been dam­aged so badly that there was no re­pair­ing it,” he said, not­ing that a re­peat of the Oct. 10 flood, which saw some ar­eas of the CBRM hit by more than 220 mil­lime­tres of rain, is un­likely.

“Never say never, but the like­li­hood is so small that it’s not some­thing we would worry about hap­pen­ing in the life­time of the build­ing.”




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