Frozen pipes at LCPS cause concern amongst parents

LITTLE CURRENT-A frozen lateral line leading to Little Current Public School (LCPS) left the school without water Monday, leaving Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) officials scrambling to find a contractor able to restore water while equipment and additional staff have been assigned to the facility to ensure the health and safety of students. Education Director Norm Blaseg confirmed that the RDSB’s attempts to find a local contractor with the equipment to thaw the line had proved fruitless and efforts were underway to bring in contractors from Sudbury able to deal with the frozen line.

“We contacted contractors on the Island but they informed us that they did not have the necessary equipment needed,” said Mr. Blaseg. “We have had to find someone in Sudbury, but there is quite a backlog of frozen and broken water lines in Sudbury as well.” Mr. Blaseg said that he remained confident that a suitable service provider would be found to rectify the problem.

Mr. Blaseg also confirmed that the school was scheduled to remain open and that a scheduled basketball tournament was expected to go ahead as planned despite the water issues, but that the RDSB was confident that a sufficient level of health and safety could be met to protect the students.

“We have been in contact with the Sudbury and District Health Unit to ensure that our precautions are meeting what is required,” he said. Mr. Blaseg said that two (perhaps three) additional custodial staff were being assigned to LCPS and that hand sanitizing stations had been brought in to each classroom to be used under supervision of staff, that drinking water had been brought in for the staff and students and that water tankers were being secured to supply water to keep the toilets flushed.

A letter sent home to parents with the students informed them of the lack of water due to the frozen pipe and what steps were being taken to ensure their children’s safety. That letter noted that water coolers had been brought into the school to give students access to drinking water and that custodial staff had cleaned washrooms throughout the day to ensure proper sanitation was being met. The letter went on to say that hand sanitizer was available in all classrooms, under supervision of the teachers and that board maintenance staff and contractors were working diligently to repair the frozen water line.

“However, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to resolve the water issues today and additional contractors will be on-site tomorrow,” continued the letter, going on to assure parents that additional custodial support will also be on-site tomorrow (Tuesday).

The letter, issued under the signature of LCPS Principal Jamie Mohamed, thanked students and staff for their continued patience.

Mr. Blaseg said that the school board decision to keep the school open was based on a number of factors. “First and foremost is the health and safety of our students,” he said, but that the school board “typically doesn’t close” a school under these circumstances.

“Is it inconvenient, absolutely,” said the education director. Among the factors the board has to consider is the impact that a school closure would have on working parents, particularly single parents who might not have the resources to deal with an unanticipated school closure. “A lot of families don’t have that support system,” he said. “What if it lasts longer than a day? Do you continue to keep children at home? It can be very challenging for them.”

At the end of the day, it is a child’s parent who has right to make the decision on whether or not to send their children to school, he said. But it is the school boardÕs responsibility to ensure that the school is a safe and healthy place for their children and he remains confident that is the case at LCPS.

Mr. Blaseg said that he had been in conversation with Mr. Mohamed and the LCPS principal had indicated to him that he had not received a single complaint from a parent at that time.

“I asked him about the basketball tournament and could we handle it,” said Mr. Blaseg. “He said that he believed that we could. We want everything to go on as normal as possible.”

Mr. Blaseg said he was confident that with the additional staff and resources being put in place, the school would remain a safe and healthy place for the community’s children.

“We have maintained control of the access points (to sanitation facilities) and there will be continuous flushing taking place,” he said.