Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Victoria schools open despite heavy snowfall and safety risks

Greater Victoria woke up this morning to significant snowfall and blizzard like conditions. Schools in Sooke were closed. Private schools were closed. Camosun college was closed. The police issued a travel advisory - "Victoria Police are advising the public to stay off the roads and only drive if it is absolutely necessary". Victoria schools cancelled school buses, but schools were open.

See photos here: Times Colonist Photo Gallery

Reports indicated that student attendance ranged from 10 - 50% at most schools. There was at least one motor vehicle accident on school property. School parking lots and sidewalks were not plowed. Many teachers were unable to report to work due to treacherous driving conditions. Some schools were not adequately heated. One school had no power.

Why were schools open? The first responsibility of the Superintendent is to ensure the safety of those in the school community - students and staff. Clearly, there were significant hazards associated with icy and snowy conditions both on the way to school and on school grounds.

One reader of the Victoria Times Colonist commented: "Schools should have been closed today, the roads were mayhem... even the highway (Pat Bay) hadn't been plowed or salted. Totally unprepared, very dangerous."


  1. Totally agree! Today felt like glorified babysitting, how can you teach with half your class absent?

    Even kids who live within walking distance are putting themselves at risk just by walking on the unpaved sidewalks next to those treacherous roads. The general consensus today in the staff room was "what was John thinking?!" Just because it wasn't called at 6:30 am doesn't mean it couldn't have been called when it was clear the conditions were not improving. By lunch time we should have made the call.

  2. I agree with the above comment; I also only had half the students in attendance. However, we did carry out some pertinent learning: how to walk to school in heavy snow and dangerous walking conditions.
    1. Walk on the sidewalk away from the road
    2. Use sidewalk where you are walking against the direction of traffic so that you can see oncoming vehicles
    3. Do not cross until cars are fully stopped and have acknowledge you before you try to cross
    4. Be alert and aware of your surroundings: cars may try to stop but cannot always due to the road conditions
    On the other hand, putting children in such a predicament was treacherous and poor judgment!

  3. Totally agree - they could have even made the call at 730, like Sooke. I was not fond of his statement to the news. Not once was student safety mentioned (or the safety of staff). The only consideration appeared to be providing a place for students to go so their parents could go to work - not what I consider our top priority! The request by Saanich and Victoria PD to stay off the roads should have been reason enough to close the schools.