Nfld. & Labrador

Parents 'tentatively optimistic' Bishop Feild Elementary will reopen

A final structural engineering report is still to come, but the education minister says he doesn't have plans to close the St. John's school.

Education Minister Dale Kirby says $15M has been set aside for repairs

Bishop Feild School on Bond Street in St. John's closed on Oct. 24, 2017 after part of the gym ceiling collapsed. The 304 students were moved to the former School for the Deaf. (Twitter @BishopFeild)

The provincial government is still waiting for a final structural engineering report, but Education Minister Dale Kirby says he doesn't have any plans to close Bishop Feild Elementary School in St. John's.

Kirby told reporters at this week's budget announcement that $15 million has been earmarked for repairs and maintenance. 

The ceilings at Bishop Feild consist of a layer of metal screen, a layer of concrete and a layer of plaster on the outside. The metal screen in this spot rusted out and the concrete and plaster fell to the ground. (Ken Morrissey/submitted)

"We don't have the final report yet on Bishop Feild, when we get the final report from the structural engineer we will fix the problem, we have the money to do that," said Kirby on Tuesday. 

"I don't have any plan to close it."

'We're tentatively optimistic'

Part of the school gym's ceiling collapsed on Oct. 24, 2017, and students have been attending classes at the former School for the Deaf on Topsail Road since then.

Parents and students have been worried the 90-year-old building would require too much work to make it worth the cost of repairs.

"We're tentatively optimistic," said Bishop Feild school council chair Brad Stone. 

"You know nothing [is] official and concrete, until they get the final report they can't commit either way, but it kind of indicates to me and to everyone that they're leaning towards this being a fixable problem," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Brad Stone, chair of Bishop Feild's School Council, says there have been no red flags from engineers or contractors assessing the repairs needed to make the building safe for students. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Stone said he has been speaking with the school district regularly and there is every indication it will be an easy repair job.

However, he doesn't expect things will move quickly enough for students to return to the building in time for the start of the new school year in September. 

"Unfortunately we're nowhere near a timeline. It's a government project, so as fast as they have been moving, it's still government so it's slow, there's processes that everything has to go through, it's got to go out to tender," he said.

"The fear it won't reopen is starting to shrink a bit, generally people are feeling pretty good at this point."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show