Nova Scotia

N.S. school boards reviewing snow day closures

Some school boards in Nova Scotia are trying to figure out whether or not to keep schools open on storm days when buses aren't running.

Some school boards in Nova Scotia are trying to figure out whether or not to keep schools open on storm days when buses aren't running.

The Chignecto Central Regional School Board is sending out a survey to parents of the 22,000 students who attend their schools asking for input on whether to keep schools open even on days when bus service is cancelled because of bad weather.

The impetus behind the survey was a paper called School Storm Days in Nova Scotia released by the province just over a year ago that asked school boards to review a wide range of recommendations.

Winter storms create treacherous road conditions for school buses. In the Chignecto board, when buses are pulled off the road, schools close.

That means kids who could walk still miss the day of school, and parents who still have to go to work have a childcare problem.

"It's hard when parents work early in the morning, and they're relying on that bus to take their kids to school," said parent Glenda Singer. "They're probably just going to have to stay home, really, if they're old enough to watch themselves. If not, they're going to have to pay a babysitter. I know that's rough; that's costly."

Changes would start next school year

The school board said changes to the system could mean students would miss less time in the classroom.

"I think as long as teachers can get to school safely, then they should be open,"  said Angela Smith of Truro, who has three children in school and looks after other kids after school.

"I think kids miss a pile of school as it is, and I think it's a good idea."

The biggest impact could be felt in rural areas where there are more kids taking the bus.

"At this point, the board hasn't made any decisions," said Trudy Thompson, the school board chair. "We wanted to feel out how the parents and the public felt so we do have an online survey as well as a paper copy survey."

The school board will review the results of the survey, and any changes would be implemented next school year.

Chignecto isn't the only school district that's taking another look at the issue of school closures. It's also under review in Halifax.

Record school closures

In the Halifax Regional School Board, the decision is just as hard.

"First decision we make is whether or not it's safe for the buses to run," said Doug Hadley with the Halifax Regional School Board. "Once that decision has been made, then we decide, if the buses are running, then everything's open. 

"If we decide the buses can't run, then we look at whether or not decisions should be made for the entire system, or we can make it by region and decide, based on various weather patterns, [whether] we could close one area and keep another area open."

Right now, in the Halifax region, if the buses don't run, the schools they serve don't open.

But other boards around the province keep schools open even if the buses are pulled off the roads.

The debate is also being fuelled by a record number of school closures across the province a couple of years ago.

In Halifax, the board has consulted with more than 100 school advisory committees.

"They may decide to keep things as it is, [or] they may want to look at changing things to try and satisfy what we're hearing from the public," said Hadley.

The board is expected to get a report on the public consultations within a couple of months.