Par­ents split on de­ci­sion for schools to re­open

Re­gion schools back in ac­tion af­ter four-day clo­sures due to power is­sues, weather

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­

Par­ents of school-age chil­dren and stu­dents of all ages across the is­land ex­pe­ri­ence quite the dis­rup­tion to their sched­ules last week.

With ro­tat­ing black­outs and, what some are call­ing an un­re­li­able power source, three days of school were can­celled to con­serve en­ergy.

Power out­ages were re­ported by New­found­land Power, and af­fected more than 200,000 cus­tomers provincewide be­gin­ning Jan. 4, lead­ing to a call of con­ser­va­tion by com­pany of­fi­cials and pro­vin­cial lead­ers.

Reg­u­larly sched­uled classes were set to re­sume Thurs­day, but the As­cen­sion, Bac­calieu, Car­bon­ear and Cres­cent Col­le­giate school sys­tems re­mained closed due to weather.

Sev­eral par­ents and stu­dents from the Con­cep­tion Bay North area took to so­cial me­dia on Wed­nes­day to both ar­gue against and ap­plaud the an­nounce­ment made by Pre­mier Kathy Dun­derdale on Jan. 8 to re­open schools af­ter it was de­ter­mined power was avail­able.

Par­ents re­act

The Com­pass con­tacted one par­ent, Amanda Dug­gan, who was not too im­pressed with the de­ci­sion to send her two chil­dren — Mikayla and Micheal Cole — back to school, not know­ing if power would go again. But Dug­gan — of Car­bon­ear — had another con­cern, one that some par­ents may be able to re­late to.

Dug­gan’s seven-year-old son, whom she calls Mikey, ex­pe­ri­ences anx­i­ety dur­ing power out­ages, and de­cided to hold off on send­ing her chil­dren to school im­me­di­ately.

“I’m wait­ing un­til school is open at least a few days, just to see how the power sit­u­a­tion is be­fore I send them,” she ex­plained. “Mikey has had a few anx­i­ety at­tacks be­cause of the power be­ing gone, and if power goes out in school be­cause it’s not sta­ble, he will have a ma­jor (at­tack) with­out me or his dad there.”

Her rea­son­ing was more than just her child’s sit­u­a­tion. Dug­gan also be­lieves teach­ers should go back to the school “to get ev­ery­thing run­ning like they nor­mally would, just to see what af­fects it will have.

“And at least the kids won’t be there if the power goes out.”

Other par­ents, like Denise O’Grady, said they were happy school opened again.

O’Grady is a sin­gle mother who works for East­ern Health, so she still had to at­tend work dur­ing the con­ser­va­tion or­ders that closed schools. Her son, Grady Keep­ing, is in kinder­garten at Car­bon­ear Academy.

“If my dad wasn't avail­able to babysit I would have needed to use an­nual leave to stay home (with Grady),” O’Grady ex­plained. “He's an only child and he misses his friends, so it'll be good for him to get back. For­tu­nately, he's in kinder­garten, so he won't fall be­hind in his stud­ies.”

New stu­dent up­set over clo­sures

Bris­tol’s Hope res­i­dent Holly Mur­ray is a sin­gle mother of six-mon­thold Cora­bella.

Mur­ray was sup­posed to be­gin classes at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in St. John’s this week, but be­cause of the cancellations, she missed what she’s call­ing some im­por­tant ac­tiv­i­ties. She is very up­set over the sit­u­a­tion.

“I am a new stu­dent at MUN, start­ing off with­out ori­en­ta­tion and books be­cause of the clo­sure, and (I’m) ex­pected to go in like I know what I’m do­ing,” Mur­ray said. “I don’t know where… I’m even go­ing, and the book­store line-up will be in­sane.”

Mur­ray hit the road to St. John’s early Jan. 9 to at­tend her first day at Me­mo­rial, ex­cited and happy it opened for the se­mes­ter. She is study­ing to be­come a so­cial worker.

School board weighs in

Darin Pike, the CEO of the New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict, spoke to The Com­pass Thurs­day about the sit­u­a­tion as stu­dents and teach­ers headed back af­ter four missed days of classes.

“A num­ber of schools have lost more than usual in­struc­tional time (due to early win­ter weather),” Pike said. “At the stage we’re in now, teach­ers are very well versed in chang­ing their struc­tural prac­tices when nec­es­sary. They have be­come pretty good at ac­com­mo­dat­ing be­cause of miss­ing a day due to weather.”

King said the board is cur­rently mon­i­tor­ing the weather sit­u­a­tions closely, and as­sures the board is pre­pared in any sit­u­a­tion.

“All schools lose some time in the win­ter months,” he con­tin­ued. “We have gone through large events that have im­pacted a larger num­ber of schools. This event was three days, and for some schools it’s the only three days they’ve lost. For some, it adds to other days al­ready lost to weather. It seems to be a tough win­ter.”

Al­though the schools have been closed, Pike con­firmed there have been of­fi­cials in­side each school, en­sur­ing sys­tems were op­er­at­ing, and things like heat were work­ing.

The only prob­lem seen in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion was at Car­bon­ear Academy, where a frozen pipe did burst, but Pike said it had been fixed as of Jan. 9.

If any schools, not just in this re­gion but across the prov­ince, have any more dif­fi­culty, have more clo­sures, es­pe­cially for a length of time, Pike com­mits to as­sist­ing to pro­tect in­struc­tional time, and how­ever nec­es­sary.

“We (at the school board) are al­ways fo­cused,” he said. “But for now it will be a height­ened fo­cus.”

Pike hopes to re­main pos­i­tive that ev­ery­thing will run smoothly with weather and power sit­u­a­tions, but en­sures to give the ap­pro­pri­ate as­sis­tance dur­ing any type of cri­sis a school in the prov­ince may have.

Sin­gle mom Denise O’Grady (left) was happy to see her son Grady Keep­ing re­turn to school af­ter the power con­ser­va­tion or­der closed schools for three days last week.

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