Halifax parents frustrated with HRCE dismissing school early

Students were dismissed over the lunch hour on Thursday due to weather forecast

There were mixed reactions from parents on Thursday as the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) dismissed students early because of the weather forecast.

On Wednesday, schools were cancelled outright due to weather conditions. In a statement released Thursday on HRCE’s website and Twitter account, it announced there would be an early dismissal at lunch hour.

Many parents took to the HRCE Twitter page to express their frustrations about the early dismissal.

At lunch hour, parents gathered in dozens at LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary in south end Halifax to pick their kids up from school.

Rae Liu was one of them. She said as a mother who’s also a student, half-day school cancellations are very inconvenient.

“If I’ve got classes, I have to cancel classes to pick up the kids. I can’t just leave the kids waiting at school,” she said.

“It’s just snow. I mean, are you gonna cancel the school whenever it snows?”

Another parent, Peter Stewart, described HRCE’s decision to close early as “an abundance of caution.”

“The weather isn’t that bad. We’re Canadians, we’re made of tougher stuff,” Stewart said.

He said the decision affects his work, but he particularly feels for single parents.

“Perhaps if you’re a struggling young single mom, for example, this puts an enormous burden on you,” he said.

In an interview, HRCE spokesperson Doug Hadley said he understands early dismissals are inconvenient for parents, but said the safety of students is the board’s priority.

He added that having three hours of school is better than not having any at all.

“We want to have school open as much as we possibly can. And we’ll close if we don’t think we can dismiss students safely,” said Hadley.

According to statistics provided by Hadley, there have only been three weather-related early school dismissals in the past five years.

There were parents who understood HRCE’s decision.

Michele Byers, a professor at Saint Mary’s University, was at the school to pick up her children.

“It’s not ideal for the kids to be off so much,” she said.

She said the process of cancelling schools because of the weather is “irritating.”

“They don’t cancel and the weather ends up really bad but then they do cancel and then the weather doesn’t end up that bad,” said Byers.

Patrick Kelly came to pick his son from LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary.   Seyitan Moritiwon

Patrick Kelly said if he were to give a suggestion to the board, he would tell them that weather decisions should be tailored to individual schools.

“Some schools are probably less affected,” he said.

In an email, a spokesperson for the provincial francophone school board, the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP), said the decision for an early dismissal in the board’s Halifax schools was due to the predicted forecast and safety of students.

“At the beginning of winter, we communicate to parents all options that could be possible and how and when our decisions are taken,” Stephanie Comeau said, adding the information is posted on Facebook, Twitter and the CSAP website.

“We also encourage parents to have a plan for when school closures happen as we know that in Nova Scotia this is inevitable.”

Seyitan Moritiwon

Seyitan Moritiwon

Seyitan is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She hung her lab coat after her degree in microbiology to start a career in journalism. Seyitan enjoys writing and cooking. She's a proud Nigerian who doesn't joke with her jollof rice.

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