Hurricane Fallout: School Closures & Comfort Centres

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There are more questions than answers about what took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

See also: Judy Haiven: Hurricane hardship in the workplace

First let’s tackle the business about school closures, and then we’ll look at who supports “comfort centres” for Nova Scotians without power.

On Monday, there was no school throughout the province – no elementary, no secondary, no post-secondary.  Nova Scotia was trying to catch its breath.

On Tuesday, there was no school for elementary students anywhere in NS. Of course in some communities it was a matter of safety.  Downed electrical wires, broken and leaning trees, flooding and no electricity – that meant no schools should have been open in those areas.

However why wasn’t school open in relatively safe Halifax for example?  Or in Lunenburg? One possible reason is this: 21 months ago, with a stroke of a pen, Premier Stephen McNeil  decided to abolish the province’s seven school boards. He replaced them with an “advisory council” composed of members handpicked by Zach Churchill, the Minister of Education, who are more or less guaranteed not to cause any grief.

The Nova Scotia Liberals now control all schools directly –it’s just easier to do the one size fits all:  decree that all the schools are closed, no matter the local conditions.

As Hank Middleton the former president of the NS School Boards Association (now defunct) said about McNeil’s decision:  “We’ve gone from educational democracy to educational bureaucracy. It drives me crazy that [in] the province of Joseph Howe and responsible government we’re eliminating elected school boards.”

Comfort Centres

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, there were more than 50 “comfort centres” set up around the province.  Open for varying but limited hours in community fire stations, town halls and empty storefronts, comfort centres allowed residents without power to charge their phones, get a hot drink and amuse their kids with TV for a while.  But who exactly pays for these comfort centres – certainly not NS Power! In fact the centres are kept open by volunteers who staff them, and supply coffee, snacks and water. Can anyone explain why NS Power – a huge for-profit power monopoly in NS which declared $3 billion dollars in profits over the last 25 years  – does not at the least pick up the pay for comfort centres?

Thanks to NS Advocate for publishing my two stories on  Hurricane Dorian.


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