Nfld. & Labrador

Bishop Feild Elementary to remain closed until 2020

Students won’t return to the downtown St. John’s school until next year, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said.
The English School District says the school will remain closed until 2020. (Twitter @BishopFeild)

Students won't return to a downtown St. John's school until next year, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said in a letter to parents Saturday.

The letter, signed by associate director Ed Walsh, said the plan was to have students return to Bishop Feild in September 2019, but "a re-examination of the scope" of repairs to the 90-year-old school found that strategy could be unsafe.

Now, administrators are aiming to get students back in the school by January 2020.

"I know this is not welcome news," Walsh wrote.

"While the district is also disappointed, we accept that the building cannot re-open for students and staff if there are any safety concerns whatsoever."

A full structural review was ordered after part of the gymnasium ceiling collapsed in 2017. (Ken Morrissey/submitted)

Bishop Feild closed in October 2017 after part of a concrete roof in the school's gymnasium collapsed. No one was in the gym when it happened.

Since then, K-6 students who attend the school, located on Bond Street, have instead been going to class at the former School for the Deaf on Topsail Road.

A structural report completed after the ceiling collapse flagged more issues to be repaired while students are out of the building.

Long bus ride

Brad Stone, chair of Bishop Feild's School Council, said the alternate location on Topsail Road presents a challenge for many parents and students.

Stone said his son, who is in Grade 6, spends more than an hour on a school bus each day, while the Bond Street school is a minutes-long walk from the family house.

Other parents, he said, have trouble making unscheduled trips to the School for the Deaf, like when a child needs to come home sick or forgets a lunch.

Brad Stone, chair of Bishop Feild's School Council, says getting students to and from the alternate location on Topsail Road is challenging for many parents. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"There are families who don't have a car, or one car between two parents," he said.

"Certain people, they're not in a financial situation where they can just say at the drop of a hat, 'Oh, I'm going to get a $20 cab ride.'"

Stone said he wasn't surprised to hear about the delayed opening, and understands that there is still much to do, but he wishes work on the shuttered school started sooner.

"It probably could have happened a little faster," he said, "it was almost a year before any work happened."

In his letter to parents, Walsh wrote construction workers "would be required to be both inside and outside at various points of construction. This means there will be a considerable amount of worker traffic and disruption which could compromise student and staff safety."

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said the project is managed by the Department of Transportation and Works, and the district couldn't comment further on the delays.

The spokesperson said students would remain at the School for the Deaf until Bishop Feild reopens.

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