Some parents of students at Roberts Creek Elementary School are concerned about potential health hazards of renovations slated to start Feb. 18, but School District No. 46 (SD46) assures student safety is a top priority.
The school is slated to have all common areas repainted and the carpeting currently hanging on the walls in the library removed as part of regular maintenance.
Parent John Conway contacted Coast Reporter with his concerns around the work to be done and also sent a letter to SD46 and the Minister of Education.
“It is my understanding that the paint that is going to be used lost its Green Guard certification in 2011,” Conway said. “Also any removal of old carpets has huge ramifications around toxic fallout dust in the air, that even if done during the evening will still be there in the morning, which will be disturbed and be in the air as soon as the school fills with children.”
Another parent, Melanie Kyle, also expressed concerns about potential off gassing when painting is taking place and possible risks of latex paint.
She said some latex paint has “endocrine disrupting chemicals present” and noted some children in the school may be “particularly vulnerable.”
Superintendent of Schools Patrick Bocking said four parents have expressed concerns about the renovations, but noted “the safety of our students and staff is always our priority.” He said renovations will be done at night to minimize the effect on students and that all dust will be dealt with “appropriately.”
“I can’t answer in detail because I don’t do the job, except to say that they will do it very safely. Our people are well aware the people in the schools are children, and protecting their safety is always our number one concern,” Bocking said.
He also said the paint to be used is certified safe for schools. “We’re using Natura paint which is a VOC free paint and definitely the safest paint that the company makes.”
In response to the concerns about reactions to latex paint, Bocking said he’s not aware of it being an issue.
“I’ve never heard of it and I’ve certainly been in schools where painting has been taken care of before with no problems for students,” he said.
Some parents asked why the renovations couldn’t take place in the summer to avoid impacting students.
“Painting throughout the year is a fact of life for school districts. With many buildings, two painters and a short summer, painting has to be done throughout the year or we would not be able to maintain our buildings to be healthy, attractive learning environments,” Bocking said. “The exteriors are done when the weather is warmer. When the rains start in earnest, our painters move inside.”