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‘School might not be on their radar at the moment’: Back-to-class will look different in Shuswap area

The start of the new school year is just days away for most British Columbian students, but for some in wildfire-ravaged neighbourhoods, they will have to wait.

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is hitting pause for a portion of its student body until September 11 as families remain under evacuation orders.

The school district wrote in a letter that information has been shared with families of North Shuswap Elementary about relocating both staff and students from that school to Carlin Elementary and Middle School. The board mentioned that there will be alternate transportation routes to Carlin for the evacuated families.

North Shuswap area high schoolers who attend J.L. Jackson and Salmon Arm Secondary schools will have the choice of going to class in person or through a hybrid model.

“The trauma that they’ve experienced, school might not be on their radar at the moment,” said Donna Kriger, the School District 83 superintendent.

“We’ve tried to just zero in on those people with the direct impact of losing a home or losing a property.”

Thousands of residents remain displaced, and the number of homes destroyed has yet to be quantified.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the nearby Adams Complex fires have burned over 50,000 hectares.

“To the best of our knowledge, all school structures in wildfire-affected areas remain standing and undamaged, thanks to the incredible work of the firefighters on the ground,” wrote the B.C. Ministry of Education and Childcare.

The ministry says due to the trauma endured by the devastating wildfires, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is providing additional counselling services for students and teachers.

“Providing the mental health resources is paramount for student learning,” said Education Minister Rachna Singh.

“We understand that these resources would be available for the students, teachers and families when the schools open next week.”

SD83 wrote that the alternative arrangements will continue until the district is able to confirm there is no structural damage to North Shuswap Elementary, power is restored to the area, and the evacuation order is lifted.

District staff are also finalizing evacuation plans if the Bush Creek East fire becomes a greater threat to students at Sorrento Elementary who are currently under an evacuation alert.


Recent estimates from BCWS show that the Rossmoore Lake fire is burning at 11,062 hectares, while the Bush Creek East fire has scorched 43,083 hectares. One hundred and thirty nine BCWS firefighters have been assigned to the Rossmoore Lake fire and 176 to Bush Creek East, according to the agency.

The wildfire service reports that the recent wet weather has played a significant role in suppressing the blazes as crews look to get both under control.

“We’ve had really good progress on these fires. We are in a position now where we are starting to release equipment. It’s a case of getting people on the ground because there is going to be a lot of mop-up work in the coming days and probably weeks,” said Marg Drysdale, a BCWS information officer.

Drysdale said the transition into the fall has increased morning dew and humidity, which helps further dampen fire behaviour.

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