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School hit by minivan to remain empty

The Alberta classroom where a minivan smashed through a window and landed on top of three students, killing one of them, will remain empty.

Glen Brodziak, superintendent of St. Paul Education, said most students from Racette Junior High where the crash occurred have chosen to return to the school in January.

But some students, including all of those who were in the Grade 6 French classroom, don't want to go back. They will be allowed to finish the year elsewhere.

"We fully support that and recognize that it may not be in their best interest to return," Brodziak said. "Some families are still dealing with some very real things that are concerning for them."

Brodziak said he's not sure if the two injured students are well enough to return to classes.

One thing is certain -- the classroom hit by the van will be closed for good.

"We just felt it was the best decision ... out of respect."

The return of students at Racette is short-term anyway. It was a temporary solution while $8 million in renovations could be done to their original school. The work is expected to be completed in the spring.

Witnesses have said the van was speeding down a back alley on Oct. 25 before it crossed onto the school grounds, smashed through a fence and crashed into the lower-level classroom.

Three girls were pinned under the vehicle and had to be airlifted to hospital. One of them, 11-year-old Megan Wolitski, died the next day.

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

Racette's 250 students temporarily moved to St. Paul Regional High School so repairs could be made to their school.

Brodziak said the building is now structurally safe. As well, cement barriers have been placed along the side of the school.

Meetings were held with parents to determine if Racette students wanted to return to school. An open house was also held so parents and students could walk through the building for the first time since the crash.

"We had views on both sides," said Brodziak. "The biggest thing is no matter how you're impacted or affected you need to move forward.

"It's almost like we need to reclaim our lives."

The Canadian Press


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