School closures due to storms becoming a “serious concern”

MONCTON – Many schools were closed across the province Wednesday, as New Brunswick was hit with yet another winter storm.

This was the 11th snow day of the year for the Anglophone East School District; more than all of last year.

Superintendent Gregg Ingersoll says all of the closures is causing concern.

“We’re looking right now at school field trips and things like that to see what we can do,” he said. “Those are wonderful experiences for students to go on a field trip, but most of them take a half-day or a full-day to get there and get back. Given the time we’ve missed, is it something that we can continue to afford to do this year?”

Ingersoll said schools are also looking at cutting back on assemblies and spirit days that might remove kids from the classroom. Four Anglophone school districts, including Anglophone East, have already applied to have a professional development day on April 30 converted to a regular learning day. That decision was approved by Minister of Education Serge Rousselle.

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By this time last year, Anglophone East had four snow days. They had five in March. Ingersoll knows that could be a possibility again this year, making the situation even more critical.

“Having missed eleven school days in the school year, that’s a lot,” he said. “It’s a serious concern for us, but again the weather is what it is and safety always has to be our number one priority.”

Ingersoll explained that when the snow is falling in the morning, they speak to the Department of Transportation to determine if it is safe to run buses or to keep schools open. When snow is predicted for later in the day, they use a special weather forecasting program to see if it is likely to affect students, especially as they are trying to get home.

Ingersoll said that teaching hours and teaching days are spelled out in teacher’s collective agreement, so the district would not have the power to do other measures like extend school into the summer to make up for lost time.

A decision like that would have to be negotiated between the province and the teacher’s union.

The Department of Education told Global News Wednesday that this option is not being considered. But later in the day the Minister of Education said they are ready to work with the school districts to ensure the curriculum is delivered.

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“We are ready to talk with the different districts to make sure our kids in the province have a good education, with the number of days required to make they have all [that] they have to learn,” he said.

Provisions are also being made to try to reduce the impact on students for future years.

Ingersoll said the school board is looking to redesign their student information system in the next few years to create a website where students and parents would be able to log in and have access to school work. Some teachers are already do this on their own school website.

“Not every student has technology, but a lot more students have technology today than they used to,” he said. “And every year that goes by, that becomes more of a reality and a possibility to use technology on days like this.”

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