School District 27 superintendent Mark Wintjes said the district is working on a return to school plan that reflects the current wildfire evacuation orders and alerts and hopes to make the plan available to staff, parents and guardians by Friday, Aug. 18. Angie Mindus file photo.

SD 27 developing return-to-school plan

In light of the wildfire situation impacting the region, School District 27 is hoping to have a back to school plan it can share with staff, parents and guardians by Aug. 18.

Due to the wildfire situation School District 27 is developing a return to school plan it hopes to share with staff, parents and guardians by Friday, Aug. 18.

“We are working on a plan,” SD27 Superintendent Mark Wintjes told the Tribune Friday. “I still need to walk through some more discussions with administration and the board, but we are looking at the evacuation orders and alerts and where they are in proximity to our schools.”

Wintjes said the first concern is the safety of the students and secondly, minimizing the impact on the instructional hours the students receive throughout the year.

A short-term plan will be developed for the beginning of September and then once September arrives the district will re-evaluate the plan and look at other options as time unfolds, he said.

“Things could still go sideways with fires and where the alerts are,” Wintjes said. “Our district is from Bridge Lake and 70 Mile House right on up to McLeese Lake. It goes from Horsefly and Likely in the east all the way to Anahim Lake out west. We may make a decision that will impact the entire district for the first piece and if we can limit that later to specific schools then we will look at that as well.”

Hopefully by having a plan in place by Aug. 18, Wintjes said it will give families enough time to organize themselves.

“If we have to go ahead with certain pieces then we want to make sure they know what the district’s commitment is during that time,” he added.

Looking at the fire evacuation maps, Wintjes said he can see how the wildfires have impacted the district “incredibly.”

“There are a lot of sad stories and a lot of really neat stories coming from what people have done.”

During the evacuation order in Williams Lake, the school board office was moved from Williams Lake to Prince George to continue operations.

“We put things in place to ensure that our financial server could keep going and then when we returned to the office in Williams Lake we made sure that we could evacuate on short notice if necessary,” Wintjes said.

Some of the schools in Williams Lake were used to house firefighters and RCMP for the first weeks of the alerts and orders and maintenance, cleaning and custodial work continued by district employees.

“We do still have the military in at Glendale,” Wintjes said. “There was a wedding scheduled at the theatre in Glendale on Saturday (tomorrow) so we had to work through that in discussions with the military. It’s going ahead and the military is fully aware of it.”

Wintjes lives at 150 Mile House and was away at a trustee conference when the evacuation order was issued for his family’s home.

“We could not get home, but someone with a class one drove our RV and friends brought our three horses, dog, cats and goats up to Prince George and we all stayed in an RV park,” he said.