Saint John school closed due to structural concerns

A Saint John elementary school will be closed for the upcoming school year after being deemed structurally unsound.

Students and staff from St. Patrick's School will be relocated for the 2014-15 school year

A Saint John elementary school will be closed for the upcoming school year after being found structurally unsound. 1:59

A Saint John elementary school will be closed for the upcoming school year after being found structurally unsound.

St. Patrick's School has cracks in the walls and in a staircase, according to a recent engineer's report.

St. Patrick's School in Saint John will be closed for the 2014-15 school year due to structural concerns. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Students and staff from the 90-year-old school on the city's lower west side will be relocated in September, acting principal Rosalyn Nickerson said in a statement to community partners.

"The safety of your children and the staff is our top priority and we take this very seriously," Nickerson said.

"No long term decisions will be made until further investigation is done by the District and the Assumption Church Parish as the school is owned by the church and leased by Anglophone South School District," she said.

Meanwhile, school district officials have been visiting other west side schools to try to find classroom space.

"We know we do not have one school on the west side where all students will fit, so it looks like they would be divided between two schools," said superintendent Zoe Watson.

"But we are very mindful that the school community would want to be as close as possible to their community," she said.

Updates pending

Amanda Flavin is worried about where her daughter, who has a learning disability, will now go to learn.

"I don't have a good outlook on it, no," she said.

"My daughter's been to a new school every year and this was the school that she felt comfortable with. And she adapted really well and she was looking forward to coming back."

Penny Buck, who owns an after school day care attended primarily by St. Patrick's students, says the biggest issue for many parents will be transportation.

As it stands, the majority of the approximately 175 students in kindergarten through to Grade 5 walk to and from school.

"How they're going to get to these different schools. I can only assume that the schools are going to set up some sort of busing system, you know, through maybe picking them up at different stations throughout the lower west and getting them to the schools," Buck said.

Parents and guardians will be updated regularly in the coming weeks, the acting principal said.

"I realize there remain a lot of unanswered questions, but we hope to answer all of them in due time," said Nickerson.

Closer examination

The school, located at 172 City Line, was structurally reviewed in 2011, along with all other schools in the province built prior to 1980.

"At that time, there were some areas in the building noted for follow-up by the district," Nickerson said.

Since then, the school has been closely monitored and regularly checked to ensure the safety of students and staff.

"At the end of June this year, structural concerns were identified and a closer examination was conducted by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"As a result of this early summer review, the students and staff of St. Patrick’s School will be relocated for the 2014-2015 school year," she said.

The government engineer says it will take a couple of months to finish an in-depth report on the school and even longer to repair what he calls an "extensive" construction project.

Margaret Reid, who babysits children in the neighbourhood, isn't convinced the repair work will be completed.

"I really just honestly don't believe that it's ever going to reopen. I really don't," she said.

The parish says it will will make a decision on the future of the school once it knows more about the extent of the remedial work required and after consultation with diocesan officials and district personnel.

"St. Patrick’s has had a great and illustrious history on the west side," the parish said in a statement.

"The parish will be looking, within its means and possibilities, in having this legacy continue."

The main building was constructed in 1924, with the gymnasium being added in 1959 and a new wing in 1964.

The boundaries of the school zone are from Market Place to Lancaster Avenue.