British Columbia

Shuswap school to reopen after mysterious smell causes seven-week shutdown

Parkview Elementary School in Sicamous, B.C., will reopen its doors after the school was forced to temporarily close on Sept. 20 because of health and safety concerns related to an unidentifiable smell. The source of the smell, however, is still unknown.

Parkview Elementary in Sicamous, B.C., is expected to reopen mid-November

The school is expected to reopen on Nov. 13, more than seven weeks after it closed due to a mysterious smell. (Submitted by School District 83)

Parkview Elementary School in Sicamous, B.C., will be reopening its doors after the school was forced to temporarily close on Sept. 20 because of health and safety concerns related to an unknown smell.

Students who were bused to several other schools over the past month in Salmon Arm are expected to return to Parkview on Nov.13, following approval from the Interior Health authority, said Peter Jory, superintendent of the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.

However, the source of the smell, which Jory previously described to CBC as "musty," is still unknown.

"We did an extensive search. We had biologists in, we had restoration companies come in, we had engineers come in, and really we're trying to find the exact source and do a mitigation procedure to solve it," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"But the other option was to establish that it was transitory in nature, meaning it was there for a while and then it went away, and after a period of weeks and a series of tests and explorations with no solution, we were able to establish that it was temporary."

Smell theories

Officials first became concerned about the odour when staff complained it was giving them allergy-like symptoms. That led to the school's temporary closure.

The smell arrived after high rainfall in late August and early September, and Jory thinks that's one of the causes.

"We have some pretty good theories there was water penetration for sure," he said. 

There were high groundwater levels that seeped into parts of the building which they think triggered the smell, he added. 

Permanently gone?

While the district can't be certain the smell won't return, it has been "absent for a period of weeks."

"What we needed to do was work with Interior Health to establish that we had exhausted all possibilities for the present. And then of course, the next step for us, and this is really critical, that we go through a series of procedures to prevent its return," he said.

This includes sealing the basement, putting concrete in the crawl space, improving venting and fixing some areas where they think water penetrated the building.

"Even if the water level does come up again, [or] we have a rainfall similar to what we had before, we can be reasonably assured that it won't return," said Jory.

The work that's been done has already cost the district well into six figures, he added, with more expenses expected.

With files from Daybreak South


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.