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Heat leads to closure of all public schools, some post-secondary in B.C.'s Lower Mainland

Vancouver -

Every public school in the Lower Mainland has cancelled classes for the day due to extreme heat in the region.

The rash of closures comes as record-breaking and dangerous temperatures are expected through Monday.

Mission School District was the first to announce it was closing schools due to the heat, sending a letter to parents and staff Friday explaining that many of the district's elementary schools don't have air conditioning.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this closure creates for parents," Supt. Angus Wilson wrote in the letter.

By Monday morning, similar notices had been issued to every to school district across the Lower Mainland.

However, not everyone was aware that classes were cancelled.

Some students showed up at Forest Grove Elementary School in Burnaby Monday morning, but were turned away by school staff.

“There’s no school because of the heat and no heat makes a happy me,” said Tyler Chow.

The Grade 6 student was excited to get a head start on his summer holidays.

“Very nice because I can go home and do what I want.”

Teachers could be seen carrying fans into their classrooms, in an effort to keep cool while packing up their classrooms and finalizing report cards.

Many school staff across the Lower Mainland were relieved classes were cancelled.

“We don't have air conditioning in all of the schools. So it is not necessarily safe for staff and students, especially with COVID and wearing masks and not being able to have your fans the same way that you would normally, in any other regular year,” said Tanya Kerr of the Langley Teachers’ Association.

Metro Vancouver sometimes has snow days in the winter, but the cancellation of classes because of heat is unprecedented.

“I think this is the very first one and hopefully the last. You know, teachers don't necessarily want to be off,” said Kerr.

She said it’s disappointing to miss out on some of the end of the year wrap up activities, especially after what’s been an extremely challenging year because of the pandemic.

“There's no words. It just is never ending. I don't think we were surprised, you know, what else can happen really," Kerr said. 

Surrey, Fraser-Cascade and Chilliwack school districts did not make announcements cancelling classes, but their school years ended last week, according to district calendars.

In spite of classes being cancelled, some graduation ceremonies at Metro Vancouver schools are still going ahead Monday. Burnaby School District confirmed to CTV News Vancouver École Alpha Secondary, Byrne Creek Community School, Burnaby Central Secondary and Burnaby South Secondary all have ceremonies planned for Monday.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, parents at some schools must wait outdoors temporarily, until going inside to see their child cross the stage. Some ceremonies are expected to last through the afternoon, when Burnaby's temperatures are predicted to be 42 C and feel like 48 C with humidity.

The school district expects wait times to be "minimal," however, and said water will be made available to all guests.

Additionally, some post-secondary institutions also decided to cancel classes and mid-term exams for June 28.

For Simon Fraser University, that included virtual and in-person sessions. Recreation and athletic training sessions are also cancelled at the Burnaby campus.

"If you are scheduled to be at SFU Monday, please note that all Vancouver and Surrey campuses have air conditioning, however, not all buildings in Burnaby campus do," a notice from the university says.

"Please note that with this heat wave, cooling systems will be challenged and buildings with air conditioning may be warmer than usual, so please dress accordingly. If you must be on Burnaby campus, ensure your supervisor knows and knows where you are working and that you check in regularly to ensure your personal safety."

The University of British Columbia did not cancel classes Monday but encouraged students and staff "to be aware of the heat and its impact on ourselves and on other community members." 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday Top Stories

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