Cracks in Ross River School declared safe

The school was closed Friday and remained shut Monday after staff reported large cracks in the walls. Everybody was sent home as a safety precaution.

The Ross River School has been cleared for occupancy.

Students were sent home Friday as a safety precaution after cracks were found in the walls.

The Department of Education originally said that classes would resume Tuesday.

Now, spokesperson Amanda Couch said the department is waiting until after a community meeting tonight to make the final decision.

Couch said they want to make sure everyone is informed and comfortable with what has happened at the school.

The Department of Education originally said that classes would resume Tuesday.

Now, spokesperson Amanda Couch said the department is waiting until after a community meeting tonight to make the final decision.

Couch said they want to make sure everyone is informed and comfortable with what has happened at the school.

Structural engineers were in Ross River over the weekend looking at the situation, said Doris Wurfbaum, a spokesperson with the Yukon Department of Highways of Public Works. They found no problems with the structural integrity of the school, she said.

Cracking at the school is not unusual since it was built on permafrost, Wurbaum said. It’s something the department monitors.

These latest cracks, which happened sometime Thursday night, “were more significant then would be deemed typical,” Wurfbaum said. She had no information on how many cracks appeared or how big they were.

The department is still waiting on a complete report from people on the scene.

The engineers recommended work to prevent truss movement in the area above the school’s mechanical room.

That work will be done over spring break, Wurfbaum said.

They also recommended exterior work to reinforce the foundation on the north wall of the building, she said. That will happen this summer.

The cost of this work hasn’t been calculated yet. 

The Ross River School opened October 2000. It has approximately 50 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Yukon College’s Ross River Dene Cho Ke’endį campus is in the same building.

About 40-45 people are affected by the closure today, said spokesperson Michael Vernon.

That includes the two staff and 10 students taking a careers training program. A Kaska language course, with four staff and five students, was also scheduled to run this evening.

The college’s mobile trades training trailer is in Ross River right now.

Two classes related to heavy equipment technician training were scheduled to start today.

Even though the mobile classroom is separate from the school, students sometimes use indoor space and also need access to the washrooms, Vernon said.

Since it was only the first day of class, the closure of the school did not have a huge impact on these courses, he said.

Staff met with students in the First Nation’s administration building to give them the basic introductory orientation.

The school is part of a permafrost monitoring program run out of Yukon College by the Northern Climate Exchange.

The results of that study are expected this summer, Wurfbaum said.

The public meeting at the school is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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