By Tina Comeau
The old Yarmouth Junior High School site is Central School’s preferred site for a new elementary school down the road, but for now it will be the site for Central students and staff for the remainder of this school year.
Students and staff are being forced to relocate from Yarmouth Central School following an oil spill that occurred in the basement of the school on Thursday, May 29.
Students were sent home early that afternoon and there were no classes at the school on Friday. But according to a posting on Tri-County Regional School Board’s website they won’t be back at the school for the rest of this year.
“Until such time as (an) assessment is completed, all students will remain home until further notice. School Board personnel and school staff will be determining a course of action in arranging a move to the former Yarmouth Junior High School for the remainder of the school year,” the notice reads. “The date for classes to resume will be communicated to parents and students once the necessary move is completed.”
The notice on the board website says, “Our first priority is the health and safety of our students and staff.”
Asked when the move may take place, Superintendent Lisa Doucet told this newspaper on Saturday morning, "We do not have an exact time at this point as the arrangements are being made for the move. We should know more within the next few days."
The closure also affects the teacher’s resource centre that is located in Central School.
Gerry Purdy, the school board’s director of Human Resources, told this newspaper on Thursday that the spill occurred in the basement during the refilling of a tank.
The school board said on Saturday that the total amount of oil spilled had not yet been determined.
But the board says there are now “environmental issues” as a result of the oil spill.
A student of the elementary school who contacted the Vanguard newsroom last Thursday, said teachers and students in the building could smell the odour of oil and some of her classmates were coughing and were bothered by it.
Fumes were a concern, said Purdy. After lunch on Thursday students were kept outside until the necessary contacts were made to let families know the students were being dismissed early. They were sent home around 1:30 p.m.
The old Yarmouth Junior High School on Parade street has been vacant since the high school opened on Forest Street two years ago. To prepare the school to be occupied again the school board says the building needs a general cleaning, technology preparation and required maintenance checks.
Student desks will also be moved from the elementary school to the junior high building as required, since the desks at the junior high building are not designed for young elementary students.
As for textbooks, etc., Doucet says, "We will move resources and materials which is identified by staff as required to complete the school year."
Because students will be accessing the playground across the street from the junior high building, Doucet says that as with all school activities, students will be supervised by staff as required.
The school board says although students will be missing an indefinite number of school days, there is no plan to add time onto the end of the school year.