By Robert Frank
At its executive committee meeting, Feb. 17, Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) voted not to move forward on updating its 12-year-old emergency measures policy.
“It will be sent out by the next council,” said executive committee chair Martin Sherman after the vote. The decision will effectively delay a final decision on the policy until after long-overdue elections for school commissioners will be held, Nov. 2.
Commissioner Craig Berger, who authored the exhaustive review of the school board’s outdated policies, argued in vain to persuade LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day and her fellow commissioners that it was urgent to act without further delay.
“I truly believe that emergency preparedness is an important policy for our community and could well be even more important than the arts and culture policy which I also worked on,” Berger implored. “The community wants to know that we have a plan in place. We rewrote the whole policy, which we went over in quite a bit of detail.”
“The current policy, which dates from 2002, contains a lot of procedures that are no longer practiced,” LBPSB assistant director-general Carol Heffernan explained. “Many forms have not been used for seven to eight years.”
“The new policy has been on the grid since September,” she said. “It has been reviewed by [school board] management and is ready to go.”
“The main change from the previous document is that it can be updated as new procedures by police and fire departments are introduced,” Heffernan continued. “We redeveloped the whole policy accordingly.”
“This year, we have witnessed extreme situations which have occurred,” vice-chair Angela Nolet emphasized, citing major risks in proximity of LBPSB schools. “Railways. [Enbridge crude oil] pipeline 9B. There is always a crisis or something which could occur and we should be as up to date as much as we can.”
Stein Day argued that the parents who sit on school governing boards risk being overwhelmed by the number of school board policies that they have been asked to review.
“We have seven consultations between now and June,” she noted. “I am concerned about overloading the community.”
“They are telling us that they are overwhelmed and could we have more time to do this,” added Commissioner Sergio Borja. “Governing boards are telling us very clearly that they have no time. It’s not the importance of the policy. It’s what the community is telling us.”
“We’re not putting schools at any risk,” reassured Stein Day. “There are emergency manuals at schools that have been used and are effective.”
“I don’t think we’re putting our students at any risk,” she concluded.
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