Edmonton

Fort McMurray's school boards assess damage from wildfire

About 200 students enrolled at Beacon Hill School in one of Fort McMurray's worst hit neighbourhoods will be going elsewhere in the fall.

Boards unable to predict size of student body for the fall as many families will not be returning

A desolate scene greeted Beacon Hill residents as they returned for escorted visits Wednesday morning. (Trevor Wilson/CBC Edmonton )

About 200 students enrolled at Beacon Hill School will be treading different ground in the fall.

"We've taken the decision not to reopen Beacon Hill school because while the school structure was still OK ... the toxicity and the particulates in there had caused a lot of damage to anything that would absorb smoke," said public board chair Jeff Thompson.

Beacon Hill was one of neighbourhoods worst hit by the Fort McMurray wildfire. 

The school will take at least a year to clean as the school's windows were left open as a wildfire roared into town last month.

Beacon Hill School in Fort McMurray will remain closed for at least one year. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The 200 students will be relocated to Dr. K.A. Clark School in downtown Fort McMurray, but the student body will retain its autonomy as a school within a school, he said. 

Thompson also said the newly-built Christina Gordon School will not be ready for the fall as construction was halted by the wildfire more than five weeks ago. 

Compared to where some of the people have lost their homes etc, the work we're doing really pales in comparison.- George McGuigan

In the Catholic school system, two schools, Father Beauregard and Good Shepherd Community School are in for long rehabilitation as well displacing as many as 430 students.

"Compared to where some of the people have lost their homes etc, the work we're doing really pales in comparison," said superintendent George McGuigan.

All Fort McMurray schools are closed until at least September.

September will prove to be interesting as there's no way to tell how many families will return to Fort McMurray especially in the hardest hit communities of Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill, Thompson said.

Up to last month, the biggest challenge facing trustees was finding enough space for a rapidly growing population of students, he said. 

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