Fire forces Glen Falls students out for several weeks

·3 min read
The fire started in a canteen near the gymnasium. A spokesperson for the school district says there's no visible damage outside the building.  (Google Maps - image credit)
The fire started in a canteen near the gymnasium. A spokesperson for the school district says there's no visible damage outside the building. (Google Maps - image credit)

Students from Glen Falls School in Saint John will be relocating to another school for several weeks following a fire this weekend, says an official with New Brunswick's Anglophone South school district.

A malfunctioning freezer was the likely source of the fire, which broke out at about 8 p.m. Saturday, district superintendent Zoë Watson said Tuesday.

An investigation Monday found the fire originated in a compressor at the back of a freezer in a small canteen/kitchen next to the school gymnasium, Watson said.

"It did a lot of significant damage to that room," said Watson, who was on site Sunday night.

The canteen has to be gutted, as does the school foyer.

There's also damage inside the gym, although that has yet to be fully examined, and the gym floor may need to be replaced, she added.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Glen Falls, located on Princess Court in Saint John, is a kindergarten to Grade 5 school with eight classes.

Watson noted that while none of the classrooms has fire damage, some have a "mess to clean up," thanks to smoke and soot that was spread through the ventilation system.

A number of schools in the district have had fires before, Watson said, and even a "small" one is a big deal.

"It may sound minor, but the cleanup is very, very major," she said.

"Clearly, if it's going to be several weeks, which we think it will be, we need to relocate the students."

Some other schools in the district have "stepped up" to offer help.

"That's very heartwarming," Watson said, "... everyone wrapping themselves around this school in the situation we find ourselves in."

The closest school, and the one with the most space, is Forest Hills.

Google Mapls
Google Mapls

That's where Glen Falls students will relocate to, starting Monday.

For the rest of this week, they'll make use of at-home-learning packages they'd been given in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

In the meantime, school and district staff will be making sure the necessary furniture, technology and transportation are set up for them at Forest Hills.

Many Glen Falls students are normally walkers, but they'll have to take buses to Forest Hills, which is about 2.5 km away.

Principals will also have to plan ways to meet COVID protocols for lunch and recess.

"There's a lot to be done in the next four days," Watson said.

Teachers will be in touch with families with more details as the week progresses.

Anglophone South has experience with relocating students, Watson noted, referring to the closure of St. Patrick's School in 2014.

The district previously had a fire outside Fairvale Elementary School that started in bales of rubber chips being used for a playground project, as well as a kitchen fire at St. John the Baptist-King Edward school and a weekend couch fire in a literacy room at Rothesay Park School.

Watson said the district has been fortunate that fire departments responded quickly and no buildings were lost.

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