POLITICS

118 Montreal students safe near Boston, still plan to perform in music festival

04/19/2013 04:03 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT
The Boston bombings haven't changed the plans of 118 Montreal-area high school students to compete in a music festival just outside the city this weekend.

The students, members of three bands from suburban Beaconsfield High School, were continuing to practice for the event at a hotel outside the locked-down area Friday.

The chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board said the students, accompanied by seven teachers, were in a hotel in Danvers, a suburb several dozen kilometres northeast of Boston.

"They are very busy, they are staying within the hotel compound by choice to do their rehearsals," Suanne Stein Day said in an interview.

She added that the students were also benefiting from some down-time: "They're enjoying the (hotel's) water-park facilities."

She said the students' parents had been consulted and a decision was made to carry on with plans to participate in the event.

"Nobody has dropped out of the competition. The competition is still a go, completely on schedule," she said, adding that festival organizers had been contacted.

The group has also been able to communicate with loved ones back home. A website has been set up for the parents, and the students have been in contact by cellphone.

Stein Day also said the students have had to change their itinerary because of events in Boston.

"No longer are they going to be able to do the sightseeing of Boston that they had planned," Stein Day said. "But instead we're taking them to Salem, so they'll get a different experience."

The website explains that the group is not actually stuck inside the hotel because the students are well beyond the danger area.

"We would not be going out if we did not feel it was safe to do so," the site says. "The safety of everybody is always our first priority."

The website says the students have been "amazing" and "although not everything is going as scheduled, they are still having a good time."

Stein Day said the music competition brings together participants from all over the U.S. and Canada, with Beaconsfield students having participated and brought home medals many times over the years.

The competition takes place Saturday in Topsfield, Mass.

Ottawa has issued a travel warning for Canadians headed to Boston. It says Canadians should remain vigilant at all times, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media. The warning also points out that the Canadian consulate in Boston will be temporarily closed.