We experienced destructive floods and mudslides in BC this week, due to an atmospheric river. The province has declared a state of emergency. Much has been said and written since March 2020 about the ongoing pandemic and school/university closures. At the same time, more and more colleagues are exploring the relationships between crises such as climate catastrophe and schools, education, and the futures of teaching and learning.

Below is an example of how this event is described as impacting MEI, an independent school district in Abbotsford BC, by the head of MEI Schools:

MEI will be CLOSED WEDNESDAY to FRIDAY, November 17th – 19th, 2021. Our staff will make every effort to provide online learning opportunities to our students on Thursday and Friday through the platforms we have used in the past including Schoology, Seesaw, and Zoom.

This has been a very difficult decision.

Abbotsford is in the midst of a formal State of Emergency. Late last night, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) notified Abbotsford residents of what could be a “catastrophic” event in Sumas Prairie with the potential failure of the Barrowtown Pump Station. If it happens, this additional layer to the existing crisis will “pose a significant risk to life” impacting beloved MEI families (Abbotsford.ca). The crisis is not yet receding, but seems to be gaining momentum.

I can confirm that our campus is ready to receive our staff and students, but the city does not seem ready to receive 1800 of us on the roads. Abbotsford’s EOC has given their support for schools west of Sumas Way to open for in-person learning. Although MEI is located in this region, we are not a catchment school. Rather, we are a commuter school with our community arriving from all parts of Abbotsford, Mission and into the Fraser Valley both east and west of our campus.

Currently, two of my 7-person leadership team, multiple staff, and MEI families have been trapped in the Hope/Coquihalla region since Sunday night. Additionally, multiple teachers, support staff, and many families representing more than 100 students will simply not be able to cross the prairie from the Chillwack area to report for work or attend classes.

If we open, we may not have enough staff for meaningful learning to take place or the basic supervision needed for the safety of our students. Additionally, we anticipate having classes that include some students in attendance and others unable or uncomfortable to attend…