No home, no school: Pontiac flood victims hit with double whammy
Hundreds of school children off this week and possibly next
Parents of hundreds of children in Pontiac, Que., are being told schools will remain closed the rest of this week and perhaps longer.
There are concerns the schools could put pressure on already-stressed sewage systems as communities in the western Quebec municipality struggle to deal with unprecedented flooding.
The English-language Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) has closed three schools: Quyon's Onslow Elementary, Chapeau's Dr. Wilbert Keon School. and St. John's Elementary in Campbell's Bay.
A number of French-language schools are also closed.
"Parents are still having to work," empathized Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie, who's also a school commissioner with the WQSB.
"And with daycares and schools being closed, it's a real challenge for these families."
'Stressful but OK'
Many of those families have also had their homes damaged by the floods, or have been forced to leave because they live in evacuation zones.
Labadie said in Quyon, the local family centre is trying to come up with some activities for children during the day while parents scramble to deal with their own personal catastrophes.
But because of a shortage of local accommodations, some families who've received evacuation orders have had to leave the region entirely, which is the case for the Beaton-Maloney family.
"Overall, it's been stressful but OK," said Lynne Beaton, the mother of four children between the ages of three and 10.
Beaton and her children are holed up in a hotel room in Gatineau's Aylmer district, about 40 kilometres east of their home in Quyon.
She says without school, the family's routines are out the window. The children's father, Gavin Maloney, has stayed behind to take care of the house and their pets — three cats, two dogs and some rabbits.
"I miss my dad a lot," said eight-year-old Ruby. "Because he's all the way in Quyon, and I miss all my pets. And I'm just kind of, like, stressed."
"We were evacuated so fast, it was very, very hard," said 10-year-old brother Gavin, "I've worn the same clothes for three days."
Their home sits high and dry, right in front of a massive sand dike built by volunteers with the help of Canadian military personnel.
The dike holds back floodwaters from the Ottawa and Quyon Rivers that have already inundated the adjacent town park.
On Monday, one part of the sand dike collapsed nearby, sending volunteers and soldiers scrambling to build a new stone dike in front of it.
The collapsed led officials to go door-to-door asking families to leave immediately, but Maloney stayed behind.
"They don't want to have to worry about anybody and I can understand that," Maloney told CBC over Facetime from his blocked-off home. "They're just doing their job."
He said he misses the kids, but he's glad they're safe and sound.