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Worsening weather led to closure of Chilliwack schools

Students leave Chilliwack secondary just after noon on Wednesday. All schools in the district were closed as of noon that day due to the snow.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Students leave Chilliwack secondary just after noon on Wednesday. All schools in the district were closed as of noon that day due to the snow.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

At 5:15 a.m. Wednesday morning an announcement was posted on the Chilliwack school district's website: All schools are open.

By 8 a.m. the social media site Twitter was a buzz with people in the community questioning that decision.

Several schools were without power, roads were treacherous, and Sardis secondary had white-out conditions blowing all around it.

School staff were required to be at school.

"Slight blowing snow – apparently nobody drives to FVDES!!!" posted teacher Michelle Savich.

"Most of the roads around us are closed. Those that are open should be closed," posted  fellow Fraser Valley Distance Ed teacher John Goldsmith.

Sardis secondary teacher Colin W. said that by 9:35 a.m. there were less than 100 students left in the school. He was not looking forward to going home.

"Took an hour to get to school. Chilliwack River Rd. a nightmare. Not looking forward to going back up the hill," he posted.

City councillor Jason Lum also didn't agree with the school district's decision to open schools.

"Don't care if the schools are all open, it's ridiculous out there!" he posted. "Stay home, don't be insane."

Business person Mike Olson said it was a poor decision on the school district's part.

And parent Michael Woods suggested, "SD33 needs a new weatherman."

By 10 a.m., school district officials were also questioning the decision. At 10:40 a.m., after all schools had been notified, a new announcement was posted on the district's website informing that all schools would be closed at noon.

"Conditions have worsened in the last three hours since we made the decision to open schools," superintendent Michael Audet told The Progress in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

"Because of issues with road conditions, drifting snow, windchill, and in the interest of everyone's safety, we will be closing all schools today at noon."

In wintery conditions, the school district follows a protocol that has several employees driving the local roads early in the morning, checking on road conditions and parking lots, as well as whether or not schools have power. Decisions are generally made prior to 6 a.m.

When Audet decided to open the schools, he said the roads at that time were manageable.

He was also informed by BC Hydro that the schools without power, which included Promontory elementary, Vedder elementary, and G.W. Graham middle-secondary would have their power returned by 9 a.m.

A second incident, however, also knocked the power out at Sardis secondary and Sardis elementary.

Their power was not returned until 9:45 a.m.

Audet believed that by closing the schools at noon, it would still be safe enough for staff and students to make it home before conditions worsened.

For further school closure information, visit the school district's website at www.sd33.bc.ca.

University of the Fraser Valley also closed its campuses at 1 p.m. Any class that started after 11:30 was cancelled.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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