Gas leaks have forced Assiniboine Community College to shut down the welding shop on its North Hill campus.
Following an inspection by the Office of the Fire Commissioner last week, the college was advised that classes could not continue until repairs are made to the gas lines.
"The permit didn’t allow us to continue past Friday … so what we’re doing is front-loading (students) with classroom instruction," said Barry Gooden, dean of the School of Trades and Technology at ACC.
More than 40 students are affected by the closure of the welding shop, which is located in the Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology.
Typically, students spend half their day learning theory in the classroom, and half doing practical work in the shop. With the shop closure, Gooden says students will spend the full day in the classroom while the school, along with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT), works on a solution.
"We’ve jointly agreed to err on the side of caution here, and just get the students out and into the classroom while it gives us all some time to analyze this and make some decisions," Gooden said.
MIT is the facility owner, Gooden said, while ACC staff take care of the training.
Possible solutions include going back to the Victoria Avenue East welding shop, which was decommissioned, or coming up with a short-term solution to get the North Hill welding shop back up and running.
"It’s just a process of which is going to be the quickest, fastest, easiest solution," Gooden said. "To use (portable gas tanks) here, instead of the whole gas line … or go over to the main campus and use (portable gas tanks) there… it’s the way we used to do it over there."
Gooden hopes to come to a conclusion by the end of the week.
"Our goal is to get them back into a shop as quickly as possible," he said. The term ends March 1. "We’re really working together to reconcile this, because No. 1, it’s a safety issue. No. 2 , the students really need to get the hours in, so when they move on they’ve got their accreditation."
The $46-million Len Evans Centre for Trades and Technology opened in the fall of 2010.
A welding student, who wished to remain anonymous, said students are stressed out and concerned about completing their practical hours.
"Shop time has been cancelled, basically been put on hold," he said."It’s affecting our curriculum … Now we’re just cramming all (theory) into one day … we’re really being gypped of our education."
The student said he would like to see the shop classes moved to the Victoria Avenue East campus so they can continue their hands-on work.
A spokesperson with the province provided a statement to the Brandon Sun regarding the issue, which stated that MIT and ACC will be looking at options to ensure the students’ courses are unaffected while engineers and the Office of the Fire Commissioner work to find a solution to bring the gas distribution system back online.
The best option is likely to bring temporary portable gas tanks to the current site, as the Victoria Avenue East site has been out of service for more than two years.
According to the province, "Safety is the paramount consideration in this work, and at no time was the safety of students or staff in question."