Paddle Prairie School to open Wednesday after Alberta wildfire smoke damage testing

Click to play video: 'Wildfire’s toll on Paddle Prairie community becoming clearer' Wildfire’s toll on Paddle Prairie community becoming clearer
WATCH (May 31): A wildfire has already destroyed 15 homes on the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement and threatens dozens more. Fletcher Kent has the latest – May 31, 2019

While most young students in Alberta headed back to class Tuesday, the start of a new school year was delayed a day in Paddle Prairie.

In a post on its website, the Northland School Division No. 61 said Paddle Prairie School pushed back its start date “due to health and safety precautions related to the restoration work taking place” following the wildfires earlier this spring.

READ MORE: Northern Alberta wildfire destroys at least 11 homes in Paddle Prairie, 80 at risk

A tentative start date for classes had been set for Sept. 16 but on Tuesday evening the division said the school would re-open on Wednesday.

The Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement was hard hit by the Alberta wildfires at the end of May. Sixteen homes were destroyed by the massive Chuckegg Creek Wildfire and about 15 more were damaged by flames and smoke. More than 700 community members were forced out of their homes for over three weeks.

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WATCH (June 24): Sweet words from a little girl helped comfort her family as they returned to where their home used to be in Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement. Courtesy: Facebook/Lori Wanuch

Click to play video: 'Toddler comforts family returning to Paddle Prairie' Toddler comforts family returning to Paddle Prairie
Toddler comforts family returning to Paddle Prairie – Jun 24, 2019

In the division’s Aug. 30 update, it said the school suffered severe smoke damage as a result of wildfires.

“Hired contractors have been working through the summer to restore the school to a welcoming, safe and healthy learning environment,” Acting Supt. Nancy Spencer-Poitras wrote.

Recent tests show “no evidence of soot, ash or char and no signs of the smell of smoke or other issues,” she said.

READ MORE: Tough return for Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement after Alberta wildfire: ‘It hurts to see’

Still, last week, concerns were raised with the school division’s senior administration and so the start date will be postponed and the school will be retested “as a precaution.”

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Northland School Division said in an update on its website that Alberta Health Services had completed its review of air quality testing done at the school on Tuesday.

“The previous air quality test results had been sent to AHS on the weekend and were examined by the AHS Air Quality Specialists,” the division said in the statement.

“All reports, including [Tuesday’s], came back that there were no concerns regarding air quality and staff and students can reoccupy the building. AHS stated the school was cleaned and remediated ‘above and beyond’ their expectations.”

READ MORE: 3 months after sparking, Chuckegg Creek wildfire in northern Alberta finally under control

The school division said bus routes 406 (Doris Christian), 423 (Everett Piper) and 425 (Robert Auger) would be running Wednesday morning.

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