ALBERTA

St. Paul School Crash: Students May Never Return To Racette Junior High School

11/06/2012 06:29 EST | Updated 01/06/2013 05:12 EST
CP
ST. PAUL, Alta. - Students forced out of an Alberta school where a minivan crashed into a classroom, killing an 11-year-old girl, may never return to the building.

Glen Brodziak, superintendent of St. Paul Education, said Tuesday that students at Racette Junior High School will not have to go back if they don't want to.

"We're definitely not going to want to put students or staff back in a place that gives them a significant amount of trauma."

He said repairs have yet to be made to the building since the crash last month in St. Paul, a town 200 kilometres east of Edmonton.

The van smashed through a window of the school and dove straight into a lower-level Grade 6 French class. Three girls were pinned under the van and had to be airlifted to hospital. One of them, Megan Wolitski, died the next day.

The driver of the van, Richard Benson, faces various charges including criminal negligence causing death. His family has said he has a history of seizures and they think he was having an attack at the time of the crash.

The 250 Racette students have temporarily moved to St. Paul Regional High School. It's a bit of a tight squeeze, said Brodziak, but it's the best solution right now.

"Given the magnitude of the accident and the effects and impacts of it ... if (the repairs) were ready tomorrow we wouldn't be going back. We're in no hurry right at this point."

The school where the crash happened was only being used by Racette students temporarily. An $8-million renovation of the original Racette Junior High has been underway for more than a year.

A spokeswoman with Alberta Infrastructure said the construction work on the original Racette school is on track to be finished by the end of February, but can't be done before that.

She said new schools in Alberta no longer have basement classrooms like the one where the crash happened. Since 2006, schools have been designed with classrooms at or above ground level.

Brodziak said the students could wait and move from the high school to the renovated school without returning to the site of the deadly crash.

"We're exploring all options," he said. "The final decision to go back, if and when we go back, will be made by the Racette family, meaning the parents, the students and the teachers will decide."

He said the issue will be discussed at an expanded parent council meeting, but no date has been set.

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