71 schools closed in Canterbury

JODY O'CALLAGHAN AND JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 13:54 21/06/2013
Christchurch snow
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

SENT HOME: Andy Bean picks up children Noah, 8, (in green) and Arlo, 6, after Christchurch East School closed.

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Snow days are becoming more frequent for Christchurch's highest school, its principal says.

When Jacqui Duncan took over the reins at Cashmere Primary School, on the Port Hills, 13 years ago, snow forced her to shut its doors to pupils only once every three years.

In the past three years, it has happened every year, if not twice a year.

She arrived at the school early today as the snow was piling up in Hackthorne Rd and made the decision to close as its steep pathways became ''lethal and treacherous''.

It was normal practice to shut the school the moment snow settled on its grounds because it made it too dangerous for pupils to walk on the paths.

Duncan told The Press how just the other day she did the maths to realise the school used to have to close because of snow only every one in three years.

''In the last three years, we have had to do it every year. Two of those years we have had to do it twice.''

There seemed to be more and more extreme-weather events, she said.

''I don't understand the science behind it all, but on the one hand we know temperatures are going up, and yet we seem to be getting these severe events at least every year.''

The last snow dump in May closed the school for the first half of the day until snow could be shifted from the grounds, she said.

''Already this winter, and it's only June 21, we've had two snow events that have disrupted opening of the school.''

Duncan recalled that during the 1992 snowstorm, before she took over the role as principal, pupils had to be collected by an army truck because conditions had become too dangerous for the school bus.

It had become legend in the suburb, she said.

While the 490 pupils might have been home keeping warm or playing in the snow today, most staff were hard at work from home.

Mt Pleasant School, the next highest of Christchurch's schools, was open today as its grounds remained green.

Principal Chris Nord said that despite about 140 pupils not being able to make it to school from various parts of the hilly area, ''we miss quite a bit of the snow in sour weather''.

While he thought there was more snow in Canterbury from a historical perspective, he had not noticed it in terms of school closures. But it did close during May's snow.

A total of 71 schools closed across Canterbury today, including many in Christchurch.

Among them was Christchurch East School, which sent children home at 9.10am.

Andy Bean said he had just got to work when he got the call to go back and collect Noah, 8, and Arlo, 6.

"Now we're going to get a DVD," he said.

Mum Dianna Johnston was surprised school was off from just "a little bit of cold and rain".

She and daughter Lily Platt, 12, were headed home to read books and sit by the fire.

Pupil Cameron Ingram, 12, and brother Sean, 6, were pleased to have the day off.

Cameron said he would "snug up in bed again" for the rest of the morning.

Teacher Sharon Walsh-Grieve, teaches years 1 and 2. Only about six of her 21 pupils made it to school.

"It was just a bit wet and cold for everybody."

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She would spend the day lesson-planning by the fire with a coffee, she said.

- The Press

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