Pro­to­cols breached

As­bestos and lead paint ex­po­sure risk low for stu­dents and staff, depart­ment says

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE -

Con­struc­tion crews work­ing at Three Oaks High School in Summerside breached pro­to­col three times dur­ing the re­moval of lead paint and as­bestos ceil­ing tiles, but the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment says ex­po­sure and risk to stu­dents and staff were low.

The breaches oc­curred in March when con­struc­tion work­ers failed to meet the proper abate­ment pro­to­cols early in the con­struc­tion process when re­mov­ing lead-based paint and ceil­ing tiles con­tain­ing one-per-cent to three­per-cent of as­bestos.

A depart­ment spokesper­son says con­struc­tion work stopped as soon as the is­sues were iden­ti­fied, the ar­eas were shut down and the Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion Board was no­ti­fied.

Those ar­eas were then cleaned ac­cord­ing to proper pro­to­col and re­opened shortly af­ter af­ter all air and dust sam­ples came back clean, the spokesper­son said in a writ­ten state­ment.

“The con­struc­tion was at the east end of the school in the for­mer English Lan­guage School Board ar­eas, away from stu­dents and staff. There was no need to com­mu­ni­cate with par­ents as stu­dents and teach­ers were not per­mit­ted in the area and were not deemed at risk.”

How­ever, cus­to­dial staff was in the area, and meet­ings were held to ex­plain what hap­pened and up­date them on new pro­to­cols to pre­vent fu­ture breeches.

“An email was is­sued to all TOSH staff ad­vis­ing them of what hap­pened.”

But Op­po­si­tion ed­u­ca­tion critic Steven My­ers says he was stunned to learn of these breaches only in an email he ob­tained through free­dom of in­for­ma­tion.

The email was writ­ten by Public Schools Branch director Parker Grim­mer as an up­date to deputy min­is­ter Su­san Wil­lis about the breaches by work­ers “who did not fol­low proper pro­to­cols.”

“While Chris (Keefe) feels the ex­po­sures in these cases are low and hope­fully the risk to stu­dents and staff is also low, it will be an is­sue that needs to be com­mu­ni­cated to TOSH staff, and at some point in the near fu­ture, some­one will likely need to com­mu­ni­cate these events to oth­ers also,” Grim­mer wrote to Wil­lis on March 3, 2017.

My­ers says the fact there were three breaches that were not com­mu­ni­cated to the public is con­cern­ing.

“They de­lib­er­ately didn’t tell any­one. As­bestos is an air­borne haz­ard, so to have the stu­dents and the teach­ers on that site and so close by, put them at ad­di­tional risk,” My­ers said.

He be­lieves the PSB’s treat­ment of the sit­u­a­tion is ir­re­spon­si­ble and has sent a let­ter to Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan call­ing for Grim­mer’s res­ig­na­tion.

“That’s ex­tremely care­less for some­body who has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of the public school sys­tems,” My­ers said.

“I be­lieve the fam­i­lies de­serve a public re­port and that the gov­ern­ment should bring in an ex­pert as well as apol­o­giz­ing to Is­lan­ders, stu­dents and staff about this in­ci­dent. Why they didn’t tell the par­ents and why they didn’t tell the staff if be­yond me.”

MILLICENT MCKAY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Work is be­ing car­ried out on the ex­te­rior of the for­mer English Lan­guage School Board of­fice in Summerside.

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