CORNER BROOK — The default decision on school cancellations is to maximize instructional time for students, but not to the detriment of their safety.
That is the rationale behind what was a complicated decision to cancel Corner Brook schools Thursday morning, then re-open them that afternoon, according to George Keeping, assistant director of education (Corner Brook office).
Keeping said the decision process begins with an early wake-up call at around 5 a.m. There are forecast and radar checks, and consultation with post-secondary administration and a meteorologist. The board has access to city foremen responsible for snowclearing, the board’s own snowclearing operators as well as the busing supervisor.
“It is a very extensive process to make that decision,” he said. “Trying to make the best decision on the weather in Newfoundland is never easy.”
Keeping said the pick-up and release times for students are the most crucial.
Thursday morning, the assistant director said the forecasted winds were supposed to increase fairly early in the morning — hampering the pick-up of students. A delay was announced early in the morning with a further decision expected at about 9 a.m.
Keeping said the strong winds came a little later than expected, so it was thought it would further hamper pick-up in the morning, and school was cancelled for the morning.
He said it was an unusual morning.
“It was probably the first time I can recall being involved where we ended up delaying and then switching to the cancel,” he said. “You have to look at the information you have before you. You are trying to get instruction in for children, but you also have to err on the side of caution.”
There was some criticism publicly, that school should have been cancelled for the morning from the beginning — not leaving any parents and students in limbo. Post-secondary institutes immediately closed schools for the morning.
Keeping said there was some criticism received, but not a lot. He said there was one person really upset with the process, and another who felt school should not have been re-opened.