School Council Federation impressed with process used to reopen

The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLFSC) commends the Provincial Government, Minister of Education, and English School District for putting the welfare of students first during last week’s blizzard.

Schools in St. John’s were closed for more than a week and a phased-in approach was taken for reopening – with senior high students returning first, followed by Junior High, Elementary and Primary a few days later.

It was a wise decision and solely based on ensuring student safety,” says Don Coombs, NLFSC President. “Parking lots and streets, especially secondary streets, had not been cleared and the amount of snow piled up affected driving conditions and bus routes. It wasn’t safe to send all students back to school at the same time.”

While the decision to close schools during the massive snow storm was an easy one, it is usually a very tough call, and often presents an extremely challenging situation for English School District Personnel and Administrators.

 “It often requires hours of preparation and numerous discussions with local officials, road crews, bus operators and drivers, and meteorologists,” says Coombs. “It is very time consuming and stressful. It isn’t an easy decision in most cases.”

When it comes to closing due to inclement weather, most school leaders take a better-safe-than-sorry approach, however occasionally a weather forecast will change or be wrong. This sometimes results in numerous unpleasant phone-calls and emails from irate parents to the school administrator and district personnel – and nasty comments posted to Facebook.

“It’s really unfortunate that some react in this manner,” says Coombs. “I understand that finding child care often presents a problem when a school has to close for the day, but student safety should always take precedence over any inconvenience that may occur.”

Coombs says school councils applaud the leadership shown by the Minister of Education and the CEO’s of the French and English School Districts during the recent snow storm.

“I have heard many positive comments,” he said. “Councils and parents are very impressed with the process used to reopen schools. They recognize this was an unprecedented storm and that every effort was made to ensure student safety.”