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Storm-shuttered schools to reopen Monday, public transit less certain

Friday, January 24th 2020, 8:53 am - 26,000 metro area students have been away from their classrooms for a week

School district officials are confident that thousands of idle young students in St. John's and area will be back in their classrooms on Monday.

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But those who run public transit in the city are less certain about the status of Metrobus.

"We're very hopeful we'll be able to get around and get students back to their desks on Monday," said Terry Hall, who is in charge of student transportation with the province's English school district.

Some 26,000 students on the northeast Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador have been home for a week, their schools closed following a record-breaking blizzard and a state of emergency that has dragged on for days.

metrobus-depot More than 50 buses have been sitting idle at the Metrobus depot in St. John's since a state of emergency was declared Jan. 17. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

More than 50 city buses have been parked for a week in the Metrobus depot, with a street assessment planned for Friday to determine whether it's safe to resume even limited public transit service.

"A lot of work needs to be done on some of the secondary streets for us to be able to be able to consider going back on the road," Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said Thursday morning.

A state of emergency has been in place in St. John's since Jan. 17, with restrictions slowly being lifted on businesses and vehicle use as the situation improves and street-clearing continues.

But city and school buses pose a special challenge, because they're some 40 feet long, and eight feet wide, which means they require plenty of room to make turns and take up a full lane when moving.


As of Thursday, many secondary roads were barely passable, allowing for single-lane traffic only, raising questions about how school and city buses will be able to navigate residential neighbourhoods.

But Hall is confident Monday's target for school resumption is realistic, and that buses will be able to manoeuvre safely and that students and other pedestrians will be able to walk comfortably.

He said provincial and municipal snow-clearing crews are working hard make that a reality.

"They're well aware of our requirements in order to get school zones open and get buses moving around."

whiteway-street This is a photo of Whiteway Street in St. John's, taken late Thursday morning. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Meanwhile, Metrobus's Powell expects there will be some detours early on once Metrobus resumes operation and slowly rebuilds a service that transports between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers every weekday.

She said resumption of service will present another concern, because more pedestrians will flood the streets at a time when sidewalks are practically non-existent.

"We will be asking drivers to be patient and respectful of pedestrians once we get back on the road," she said.


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