Gary Bruce said he’s speaking on behalf of himself and other students when he questions why the College of the North Atlantic remains open when public schools and Western College, a private post-secondary institution in Stephenville, are closed due to winter storms and road closures.
He said many students in the college rely on babysitters and others to be able to come to class and further their education. Students who live outside of Stephenville are still required to attend class during these storms.
“If there are road closures, why are we still expected to travel in these hazardous conditions?” he asked.
When College of the North Atlantic remains open during storms, he said, students who are funded through Services Canada must attend class to avoid any disruption in such funding, which he doesn’t believe is fair.
Bruce said he is told that coming to school is the choice of each individual, but he asks whether the safety of all students and instructors should be everyone's concern.
“At the very least, let those people who have to go get their kids because of a school closing not be marked absent when they leave for that purpose,” he said.
He said there was a winter storm on Feb. 5 that resulted in all the other schools being closed in the morning.
Yet students in Stephenville who go outside the college for lunch didn’t get notification there were no afternoon classes until after they returned, leaving them to make their way home in the middle of the storm.
“If there are road closures, why are we still expected to travel in these hazardous conditions?” - Gary Bruce
Bruce said he heard of people damaging their vehicles because they were out in that storm.
Chris Dohaney, campus administrator at the D.S.B. Fowlow Building in Stephenville, said the reason for the closing at noon that day was due to other government agencies closing at the same time.
He said college closings for storms are different than at secondary schools and at Western College as the college’s closings are based on a number of factors. The first is the weather at 6:30 a.m. because the call for a morning closure has to be posted by 7 a.m. to accommodate people traveling to the college from outside the town.
Another factor is based on the closing of other government buildings in the town, and the college follows provincial guidelines in that regard.
Dohaney said, unlike secondary schools that have a lot of younger children who walk to school, the majority of the students at the college are adults.
Bruce said in the absence of Darlene Oake, administrator for the L.A. Bown Building where he is doing an adult basic education course, he met with Brian Foley, administrator for the college’s Martin Gallant Building.
Another meeting is being planned when Oake returns, and Bruce said that the whole issue of the winter storm closings is to be discussed.