Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School in Lytton, pictured on July 9, 2021, survived the fire of June 30 and reopened in September, but has had to close because of highway closures caused by recent flooding. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School in Lytton, pictured on July 9, 2021, survived the fire of June 30 and reopened in September, but has had to close because of highway closures caused by recent flooding. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Kumsheen School in Lytton closed due to flood damage on Highway 1

Many staff members unable to get to the school because of highway closure

After surviving the disastrous Lytton fire of June 30 and reopening to students in September, Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School has had to close due to another natural disaster: the flooding that has seen Lytton cut off from the north and south due to major damage to Highway 1.

READ MORE: Kumsheen School in Lytton reopens with 90 students registered

“Kumsheen School was closed as of Nov. 17,” says School District No. 74 superintendent Teresa Downs. Megan Fandrich, whose daughter is in Kindergarten at the school, says that parents were told on Monday, Nov. 15 that the school was closed due to rain having washed the highway out. The school was closed again on Nov. 16, and Downs says that families were informed after that the school would have to remain closed.

“We all realized the destruction [to Highway 1] at Tank Hill and Jackass Mountain,” she says. “Because of where staff are coming in from, we were unable to provide an in-person learning environment. There are not enough staff in that immediate area; most commute to Kumsheen.

“It’s about creating an environment that’s safe for students. With the roads being damaged, the school district is unable to provide a lot of supports, like water delivery and garbage pick-up.”

Downs says that the district has sent out communications to families explaining the situation, and transitioned to remote learning for the approximately 110 students who were attending the former high school, which became a K–12 school in January 2021.

The former Lytton Elementary School building in downtown Lytton was closed as of January 2021, and was being used by the Nzenman Child and Family Development Society for some of its programs. It was destroyed in the fire, but Kumsheen remained intact.

Although the school has closed, the resiliency centre that recently opened there for Lytton and area residents remains open. It operates Monday through Friday and offers a variety of supports for those who have been impacted by the fire, as well as a place to drop in for coffee and company.

”I think the families in Lytton and the surrounding community are very resilient,” says Downs. “They’ve accepted another challenge and treated staff incredibly well.”

She adds that remote learning looks different for each family, and depends on what students and families want and need. “Some families have connectivity issues around the internet and want paper-based learning, while others want it online. We’ve worked with them to make sure they have what they need to be successful at this time.

“Families are still interacting with staff via Zoom meetings and daily contact. We’ve prioritized the relationship between students and classroom teachers. And we’re appreciative of staff, who have faced upheaval but continue to support the families they serve.”

Downs says there has been no information about highway reopening apart from what is released at public briefings. There has also been no specific discussion around what “essential travel” will look like once Highway 1 has been repaired: “We’re waiting to see what an opening will look like.”

Fandrich expresses regret that Kumsheen has had to close.

“School was the one normal thing kids had going. We had it for a few weeks, then it closed. It’s been a struggle for us both, because we had settled into a routine where we walked to school every morning. It’s a five minute walk, and we don’t see the town, and it was a lovely little bubble for us.

“My daughter is in Kindergarten, and a lot of that is play-based, so there’s not much to do online, and Zoom isn’t her thing. And as a single parent, it’s a struggle. School was the only way I got some time away to work.”

Downs acknowledges that the closure of Kumsheen is another challenge for a town and area that has already endured so much.

“For understandable reasons, people thought of the Lower Mainland and Merritt and Princeton after the flooding. It’s a testament to this community that they face these challenges and do so with quiet determination.”


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