Several New Westminster schools cancelled classes today in the face of the extreme air quality problems in the city – but it looks like things should be back to something closer to normal tomorrow.
The school district sent out a letter to parents Monday afternoon on the heels of the cancellation of classes at several local schools.
“At this point we’re anticipating this will only affect today’s classes, as the firefighters are getting a better handle on the New Westminster Pier Park fire, though we will notify you if there are any changes that might affect tomorrow’s classes as well,” the letter said.
This morning began with an announcement that classes would be suspended at the three schools most closely affected by the devastating Sunday night fire at Westminster Pier Park, which left the downtown area full of smoke and residents coping with strong chemical smells from the burning of creosote-soaked wood.
That fire came on top of an existing air quality advisory that’s been in place since Sept. 8 because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter, stemming from wildfire smoke travelling north Washington and Oregon. New Westminster’s air has been sitting at 10+ (the highest possible risk level) on the health index.
Classes were initially suspended at Qayqayt and Queen Elizabeth elementary schools and Queensborough Middle School and at the location shared by the Royal City Alternate Program and POWER.
“We have continued to monitor the situation throughout the day and have adjusted as needed,” the district said in the letter.
Since the initial announcement, classes have also been cancelled for the day at Fraser River and Glenbrook middle schools and at New Westminster Secondary School.
“We have encouraged any student from one of the named and affected schools who can safety stay or return home to do so,” the letter said. “We know that’s not possible in all situations, so we also have staff at the schools to supervise any students who cannot commute home safely. The integrity of learning cohorts will be maintained.”
While the rest of the district’s schools remain open, parents are also permitted to pick up their children from any school in the city, if they prefer to do so. Because parents are not allowed in schools as part of COVID-19 safety measures, any parent who wants to pick a child up should call the office of their local school when they arrive so that office staff can collect the child from class and bring them out front.
Meanwhile, all schools in the district are taking precautions as per the advice from the local medical health officer in connection with the air quality advisory.
The school district notes it has been:
- keeping windows and doors shut, and utilizing filtered ventilation systems;
- monitoring staff and students with known health conditions (like asthma) who might be more sensitive to the air quality;
- rescheduling or restricting unnecessary physical activity (like PE); and
- as of midday, requiring all students across the district to remain inside for the rest of the day