Parents split on decision for schools to reopen

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

Melissa Jenkins
Published on January 10, 2014
Newfoundland and Labrador English School District logo

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

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