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Messy back-to-school start for students at St-Gabriel Elementary School

WATCH: Two Streets surrounding St. Gabriel Elementary School are completely dug up and under construction, inconveniencing students and staff who are back to school. As Global's Anne Leclair reports, the school's principal was told the work would be done by last week.

Back-to-school was a bit of a bumpy ride for several hundred students in Pointe Saint-Charles on Tuesday.

Two streets surrounding St-Gabriel Elementary School are completely dug up. The principal was told construction work would be completed before students came back, but it seems the city’s aging infrastructure had different plans.

“It’s crazy, this should not be on the first day of school,” said Heather Williamson on her grandson’s first day of grade two.

“It should be a really nice experience and it’s been anything but that.”

On their first day back after summer break, students at St-Gabriel were greeted by heavy machinery, piles of concrete and even a portable toilet for workers right next to the school yard.

“None of this should be here,” said Williamson. “It’s disgusting.”

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The work is all part of a move by the City of Montreal to build wider sidewalks near intersections to make it safer for students and all pedestrians.

“It looks messy,” seven-year-old Shane Armstrong said. “But I think it’s good that they’re fixing the sidewalks.”

The school principal was initially told the work would be finished in time for classes this week, but clearly it’s not.

“Construction was supposed to start on the 5th [of August] and finish on the 29th,” Jim Daskalakis said. “This morning I spoke to the [construction site] manager again and they basically reassured me that the buses will go through.”

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Buses have been temporarily rerouted to a nearby park and students are escorted to school and back by monitors. While he admits it’s not an ideal situation, the principal is confident that his students’ safety isn’t compromised.

“It’s just simply a bit more of a nuisance in terms of the mess that this created, but hopefully it will turn out fine,” he said.

Many residents living on Dublin and Hall Streets are fed up with the constant construction and wonder why the streets have been dug up multiple times in recent weeks.

“I don’t understand why it wasn’t done right the first time, maybe they’ll get to the bottom of it,” Robert Thomas said.

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While some are blaming the city, the city’s construction crews and administrators are pointing the finger at aging infrastructure.

“There were add-ons because some sewers were rotten so they ended up adding work,” said construction worker Jianluca Carozza.

A city spokesperson told Global News that after testing residents’ drinking water, more lead service pipes than expected needed to be replaced.

“We found that there were 10 instead of four so we had to replace them all, which created some delay in the works,” said Sandra Picard from the City of Montreal’s Sud-Ouest borough.

Infrastructure work should be complete this week and the street is expected to be paved next week, meaning school buses and students will be back on track without any obstacles or detours by mid- September.