Live wires downed due to the massive pre-Christmas wind storm forced École North Oyster students to stay inside, leading to an extra long day of school Dec. 20.
A weather system brought strong winds and caused damage across the Nanaimo and Ladysmith area, including falling trees, which took out some power lines near the Ladysmith area school around 3:30 p.m., according to Andrew Scruton, a parent and North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department firefighter, who directed traffic during the incident.
Dale Burgos, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools spokesman, said wires and trees were downed on each side of the road that surrounds the school, leading to safety concerns as no one could enter or exit the area.
“It got into the evening time where the remaining students that were in the school, were able to be picked up by parents, but again there was a procedure in place where emergency services personnel would escort just a number of parents at one time to the school, so they could pick up their child and escort them back safely to the … parking lot,” said Burgos.
While there wasn’t power in the school, Burgos said, there were plenty of lights, water, food and it was warm in the school.
Scruton said the children were allowed out around 6:30 p.m.
“So the school lost power and then they sent out a bulletin saying to come out and pick up the kids and after that happened, then the tree fell down right in front of the school, bringing down the power lines and at that time, they decided to lock down the school,” said Scruton.
The children had an extended school day and it was for something that isn’t an everyday occurrence.
“They were fine,” said Scruton “They just thought it was exciting because they were very well taken care of in the school.”
“It’s just because of the location,” said Scruton when asked about why students were kept inside. “There was no safe way for the kids to leave the school to get to any vehicles. It’s just that the power lines were too close. It’s purely for safety.”
Burgos said the school district follows school closure protocol in incidents like this.
“That one in particular wasn’t something that, in my recollection, we had experienced. However, right away, what happens is when it’s not safe outside of the school, and that’s for let’s just say, wild animals, anything like that, we keep the kids and staff inside, and that would be like a ‘shelter in place’ situation … nobody inside is allowed to go out and nobody outside is allowed to go in and really that’s what it was,” said Burgos.
École North Oyster was among 11 schools closed Dec. 22 in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district. Ladysmith Internediate was the only Ladysmith area school to avoid closure. Busing was also cancelled.