'Several breaches in protocol' during asbestos, lead removal at Three Oaks school

Workers involved in the renovation project at Three Oaks Senior High did not follow proper protocols when they removed lead paint and asbestos from the school back in March.

That's according to an e-mail from the Public School Branch's director Parker Grimmer to Susan Willis, who is both a board director with the branch and deputy education minister. The email was made public this week through an access to information request by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

Three breaches

In the e-mail, Grimmer explains that "there were three breaches by workers who did not follow proper protocols" during the removal process.

Grimmer goes on to tell Willis that after meeting with provincial infrastructure officials and construction manager APM, the branch's school safety consultant Chris Keefe "feels the exposure in these cases are low, and hopefully the risk to students is also low."

That's the part of the e-mail that Opposition education critic Steven Myers says has him so bothered.

"There needed to be an expert on asbestos brought in, to determine what the actual risk was," said Myers. "You can't have the head of the Public Schools Branch who has zero experience in asbestos removal, hoping that students and staff are safe."

Risk assessment was done, says education department

The education department said in a statement Wednesday that qualified officials did assess the situation and determined staff and students were not at risk.

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

Air, dust samples came back clean

The department added that some school custodial staff had been working in the area, and that they and the Workers Compensation Board were notified of the breaches.

"The areas were cleaned according to protocol and reopened shortly as soon as all air and dust samples came back clean," the statement went on to say.

In addition, the department said measures were put in place to prevent similar breaches from happening again.

Myers maintains more should have been done to ensure the safety of all those involved. He's demanding a full public report on what happened at Three Oaks.

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Clarification : An earlier version of this story referred to APM as the project contractor. This version clarifies that the company acted as the construction manager.(Jul 13, 2017 10:36 AM)