Penticton schools stay open despite weather

Despite the recent arrival of snow and very cold winter conditions, students in the Okanagan Skaha School District aren’t likely to get any time off.

While some of their counterparts in the Fraser Valley have been enjoying snow day school closures, student life is proceeding as normal in the Okanagan. School districts in the Interior, said Superintendent Wendy Hyer, are better prepared to deal with the winter weather.

“We’re used to snow,” she said. “I spoke to people who have been in the district and there is no history of closing schools in this district. The only time you would close a school is if it was a safety issue for kids.”

Hyer said she had worked in districts where the windchill was so severe that buses were cancelled over concerns the students might get frostbite waiting. But even then, the schools wouldn’t necessarily close.

“It’s not something this area typically does when it snows, because people are used to snow. And it’s a different kind of snow than at the coast,” Hyer said. “Quite often at the coast, it’s extremely slippery and their buses aren't equipped with proper snow tires and those sorts of things.”

Hyer’s own experience with snow days came after transferring from a Vernon school to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. Thinking little of an overnight snowfall, she went to the school at 6:30 a.m. to open it up, part of her job as junior vice-principal.

“There’s an inch of snow, no big deal for me. I unlocked the school, then it’s 8 a.m. and no one is showing up,” she said. “I phoned the board office and got ‘Oh, school is cancelled today Wendy.’”

Interior schools are better prepared for this kind of weather, according to Hyer, and the only reason they would close a school would be because of student safety — severely low temperatures, for example.

“We’re in pretty good shape. Kids were outside yesterday enjoying the snow, but when it gets too cold the schools have in days - they will still be in school but they don’t have to go outside,” said Hyer.


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