Some B.C. schools forced to close due to flooding reopen with rotating in-person learning for students

Some schools that have been closed for weeks in southern B.C. because of flooding are slowly reopening.

On Friday, the Nicola-Similkameen School District announced its phased reopening plan for schools in Merritt and Princeton, both of which faced massive evacuation orders due to a series of storms last month.

“School district staff, principals, teachers and school staff have been working day and night over the last two weeks, assessing and preparing facilities to get students back into schools, which I’m pleased to say started yesterday,” said Supt. Stephen McNiven, in a news release.

"This includes sourcing spaces, cleaning up the schools, bringing in clean drinking water and organizing classrooms."

The school district said Merritt Bench Elementary and Nicola Canford Elementary reopened to students in the catchment and for students from other catchments if their caregivers provide essential services. École Élémentaire Collettville is expected to reopen next week.

However, three other schools – Merritt Central Elementary, Diamond Vale Elementary and Merritt Secondary – all sustained major damage and the district says they won't reopen "in the near future." Details on the learning plans for students from those schools are on the district's website

Meanwhile, the only school accessible in Princeton is Vermilion Forks Elementary, which is expected to reopen on Monday. All kindergarten to Grade 12 students in the community will have a rotating face-to-face learning program, while doing other schooling online.

"This will give all students the opportunity to reconnect with friends and school staff, and provide what we believe to be a short-term solution for a return to in-person learning for all," the district said.

LOWER MAINLAND SCHOOLS REOPEN

Lower Mainland districts that faced periodic closures over the past couple of weeks have also made moves towards reopening.

Schools in Fraser-Cascade were closed off and on since the Nov. 15 storm, but all schools besides Boston Bar Elementary School reopened on Thursday. They reopened for one ay on Tuesday, but had to close briefly again on Wednesday due to an early morning landslide on Highway 7.

Meanwhile, two Abbotsford schools have remained closed because of flood damage and two others have continued with remote learning. About 300 students have been displaced. 

All this week, Robert Bateman Secondary and WJ Mouat Secondary had virtual learning for students. Meanwhile, arrangements were made for students at Barrowtown and Upper Sumas school communities.

All schools in Mission and Chilliwack, which both had recent closures in recent weeks because of flooding, were open this week.