Increasing health concerns around reno of Summerside school

Government says air quality within Health Canada guidelines, but hasn’t released results

Renovations at Three Oaks High School in Summerside began in March 2017, and are expected to continue until March 2019. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The Official Opposition pressed the P.E.I. government once again Friday to release air quality testing results from Three Oaks High School in Summerside, claiming the number of students suffering adverse health effects and missing classes as a result of ongoing renovations is growing.

The Opposition also said one student suffered a fractured knee when a temporary construction wall fell on her. The Public Schools Branch confirmed a student was injured in September by a piece of falling drywall.

“One boy has missed six weeks of school. One girl has missed four weeks of school,” Opposition Leader James Aylward told the House. “One girl has missed 30 days since Christmas. Another girl suffers from chest pains, fatigue, shortness of breath, poor concentration, headaches.”

Education Minister Jordan Brown acknowledged there was an increase in early April of students coming forward to indicate “they were experiencing health concerns related to their school environment.”

Education Minister Jordan Brown acknowledged there was an increase in students coming forward with health concerns in early April. He said air quality testing that month came back within Health Canada guidelines. (Province of P.E.I.)

“We would certainly acknowledge that there are students that would have greater reactions than others to air quality amongst other things,” he said. Brown said great steps had been taken “to ensure that the students are as comfortable as possible, including offering to have them make alternative arrangements such as go to other schools if they so desired.”

‘Not right’ to put kids through construction, says mom

Three Oaks parent Samantha MacPherson was in the gallery of the Legislature Friday. She told CBC her Grade 10 daughter has been diagnosed with an unspecified pulmonary disease since the renovations began, and now uses an inhaler. MacPherson said she’s moving her daughter to a new school this September.

“She’s been having a lot of breathing issues, to the point that she just can’t seem to catch her breath,” she said. “It causes her anxiety,” she said, noting her daughter’s sense of well-being and school performance have both suffered. “I feel bad that they’ve put the teachers and the kids through this construction. It’s not right.”

Samantha MacPherson says her Grade 10 daughter has been diagnosed with an unspecified pulmonary disease since renovations began, and will move to another school for September. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Paula Biggar told the House extra air quality and exhaust systems have been installed at Three Oaks. She said results from air quality tests conducted in April came back within Health Canada guidelines.

But Kensington-Malpeque MLA Matthew MacKay pointed to a request he made April 10 asking for results of all air quality tests to be made public, something he said parents at the school have also been asking for.

“You gave concerned parents only one day of test results for only one area of the school taken on March 28,” he said. “Students have been experiencing environmental health issues for months for areas all over the school.”

Asbestos, lead paint removed
John Cummings, director of corporate services with the Public Schools Branch told CBC News via email “the branch has been working with the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy to ensure proper safety protocols are being followed on the Three Oaks renovation project. The branch and school have been working with students and parents to address any individual concerns that have been brought forward.”

‘Several breaches in protocol’ during asbestos, lead removal at Three Oaks school
As part of the renovations, hazardous materials have been removed from the school, including asbestos and lead paint. Internal emails from branch officials show there were three breaches where staff did not follow proper protocols in removing some of the hazardous materials, but the education department said staff and students were not at risk.

Friday was the last day of classes for students at Three Oaks, with exams continuing until June 1. Classes are shutting down early to accommodate the ongoing construction, which is expected to continue until March 2019.

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