'Massive' flood damage prevents Witsuwit'en First Nation students from returning to school

Students at Moricetown Elementary Secondary School in northwest B.C. are still unable to return to class, one week after a broken pipe flooded the Witsuwit'en First Nation educational facility approximately 30 kilometers northwest of Smithers.

Classes canceled since Jan. 3, no re-opening date in sight

Volunteers and staff set up temporary classrooms for displaced students in Moricetown, B.C. (Moricetown Band Council)

Students at Moricetown Elementary Secondary School in northwest B.C. are still unable to return to class, one week after a broken pipe flooded the Witsuwit'en First Nation educational facility approximately 30 kilometers from Smithers. 

The school is operated by the Kyah Wiget Education Society and serves students from kindergarten to Grade 7, as well as members of an on-site daycare facility.

Kyah Wiget executive director Diane Mattson said the flooding appeared to have been caused by a malfunction in a pipe connected to the school's sprinkler system, and that it had caused "massive damage" to the school.

Crews are still working to clean up flooding at Moricetown Elementary Secondary School after a broken pipe damaged classrooms. (Kyah Wiget Education Society)

"You thought you were in a tropical flood because the whole ceiling was raining down on you," she told CBC Daybreak North host Robert Doane.

"We were up to ankle-deep water."

Crews have been removing damaged wall and floor coverings and working to salvage supplies. In the meantime, students have been unable to return to class, which was scheduled to begin Jan. 8.

Mattson said students will temporarily be relocated to the Moricetown Band Multiplex, and they are fortunate many teaching materials were saved by being placed on high shelves. She said it was too early to estimate the total cost of damage.

In the meantime, Mattson is working with insurance and cleanup crews, and counsellors are coming in to speak with children and teachers.

"It's another form of trauma," she said.  "Our goal is just to provide education."