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Abbotsford school district defends snow storm response

Mt. Lehman Elementary school was closed for much of last week, as Abbotsford was hit by a series of winter storms. - Kelvin Gawley
Mt. Lehman Elementary school was closed for much of last week, as Abbotsford was hit by a series of winter storms.
— image credit: Kelvin Gawley

The Abbotsford school district is praising its "amazing" facilities and maintenance team for their hard work, and defending its practices during a week that left schools closed most days as the city was blanketed with snow and frozen under a thick layer of ice.

"They have worked efficiently and tirelessly every day last week and over the weekend – removing snow, salting walkways and parking lots, clearing storm drains, etc. – and because of their efforts all issues have quickly been tended to," spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said, in an email.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, when most schools were open except for nine more rural elementary schools, a student was struck by a reversing vehicle in the drop-off lane, according to police.

Both the child and parent were taken to hospital with minor bruises, said APD spokesperson Judy Bird.

"Student safety is and will continue to be our top priority," Stuckart said, when asked about the incident.

Some parents took to Facebook last week to share their displeasure with how the district had handled the series of storms, including on Tuesday when it was announced most schools would be open the next day but school buses would not run.

"If busses can't get kids to school no one should be expected to get them there," one commenter wrote.

Stuckart said the district decided to cancel buses "after careful review of the condition of our routes."

"Our primary concern was that a number of the streets had only been plowed to single lane traffic, and roads in some areas were affected by drifting snow – this prevents our drivers from being able to safely make turns," she said. "The state of many side roads were not conducive to operating a 66-passenger vehicle."

She said the facilities team was out a 3 a.m. every morning to assess conditions and provide information to the district's secretary treasurer and superintendent to make a decision regarding closures.

"When we open, we understand that some parents may not feel like it is possible for their child to get to school and ultimately, they get to make the final decision as to if they want to send them or not," she said.

Despite the winter blast that dumped a year's worth of snow in less than three days, there have been relatively few issues with the district's buildings, she said.

"A few schools have reported minor roof leaks," said Stuckart. "We are actively monitoring the buildings as the mild temperatures continue."

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