Storm-shuttered schools poised to reopen Monday, public transit resumes Saturday

School district officials are confident that thousands of idle young students in St. John's and area will be back in their classrooms on Monday.

"We're very hopeful we'll be able to get around and get students back to their desks on Monday," said Terry Hall, who is in charge of student transportation with the province's English school district.

Some 26,000 students on the northeast Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador have been home for a week, their schools closed following a record-breaking blizzard and a state of emergency that has dragged on for days.

On Friday afternoon the school district said it remains hopeful schools will reopen Monday, with the possibility of changing some bus routes temporarily if some residential streets aren't yet safe. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said any changes to bus routes will be listed on its website on Sunday, as will a final call on which schools will be open

Mark Cumby/CBC

More than 50 city buses have been parked for a week in the Metrobus depot, with a return to service Saturday announced Friday afternoon. 

"A lot of work needs to be done on some of the secondary streets for us to be able to be able to consider going back on the road," Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said Thursday morning.

In a city news release on Friday afternoon, the city said Metrobus and GoBus services will return to the streets as of Saturday morning with free rides running until Feb. 7. Multiple detours are expected to be in place and delays are anticipated, according to the city. 

A state of emergency has been in place in St. John's since Jan. 17, but after several exceptions announced over the week, it will be lifted 6 a.m. Saturday. 

City and school buses pose a special challenge for navigating snow-narrowed streets, because they're 40 feet long and eight feet wide, so they require plenty of room to make turns and take up a full lane when moving.

Mark Cumby/CBC

As of Thursday, many secondary roads were barely passable, allowing for single-lane traffic only, raising questions about how school and city buses will be able to navigate residential neighbourhoods. 

But Hall is confident Monday's target for school resumption is realistic, and that buses will be able to manoeuvre safely and that students and other pedestrians will be able to walk comfortably.

He said provincial and municipal snow-clearing crews are working hard to make that a reality.

"They're well aware of our requirements in order to get school zones open and get buses moving around."

Mark Cumby/CBC

Meanwhile, Metrobus's Powell said said resumption of service will present another concern, because more pedestrians will flood the streets at a time when sidewalks are practically non-existent as it transports between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers every weekday.

"We will be asking drivers to be patient and respectful of pedestrians once we get back on the road," she said.

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