Students returning to school in Madeira Park, Halfmoon Bay, West Sechelt, Davis Bay, Roberts Creek, Elphinstone and the Sechelt Learning Centre were greeted with fewer places to play after shredded plastic and shards of glass and ceramic were discovered in the schools’ sports fields.
The soil was applied to the fields by a contractor as part of the field maintenance program at School District No. 46 (SD46). A Madeira Park resident alerted the district on the weekend when she noticed inorganic materials in the top dressing. The district then inspected fields at all schools and discovered the contaminated soil at seven of them.
Crews have been at schools in the district since 7 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, removing the offending objects from the fields “slow footstep by slow footstep,” according to SD46 superintendent Patrick Bocking. He said he hoped the affected areas would be cleaned up by the end of the week but acknowledged the process is labour intensive. “We are as efficient as we can be but this does take time,” he told Coast Reporter.
Adding top dressing to fields has been a common practice for years, said Bocking, who noted he had never encountered the problem before. “Obviously we’re not pleased that we’re having our maintenance people who could be doing other work at our schools in our district doing this instead, so we will definitely be working with that company to figure out what the next steps are.”
No school activities had been rescheduled as of Sept. 4, but students would be kept off the contaminated areas until the cleanup is complete. “There is still a lot of playground they can play on and other areas that aren’t the flat fields,” said Bocking when asked about disruptions. “We don’t have a huge group of people, so we will work with the people we have and take the time necessary to make sure our fields are safe for our students.”
Bocking said the first day back after the summer break remained an upbeat occasion. “I was out at some schools today, largely for this reason, and it’s still great to see the energy and excitement of the staff and the kids… It’s really exciting to be getting back to a really fun school year.”
Parents have been asked to direct questions to the principals of the affected schools.