Seatoun families have been informed that provisional classrooms that students used were contaminated with dangerous asbestos.
Seatoun School officials have sent a letter to the parents stating that asbestos material had been discovered by the Ministry of Education in cladding of a toilet block and 2 relocatable classrooms.
The provisional classrooms were arranged while current building work is over, but they were not used over the last month.
According to Sarah Bacon, the chairwoman of Seatoun School board, the ministry had assured them that no health hazard was there from the asbestos material present in the cladding because the substance was sealed using paint.
“The important thing is the guarantee that no health hazard is there. The buildings will be shifted and therefore I am quite sure that individuals are not so much worried because assurance given is explicit,” Bacon said.
Jerome Sheppard, the policy manager with the Ministry of Education, said there were only low levels of the cancer-causing material in the classrooms and therefore there is nothing to worry about. Sheppard said the classrooms are going to be relocated to Ngaio.
The Education Ministry works always to ensure students or staff members are not exposed to dangerous asbestos and are following building safety guidelines whenever dealing with the substance, Sheppard said.
As per Ministry guidelines, asbestos-containing buildings are required to be eliminated if disturbed. Financial assistance would be given for affected schools.
The ministry had conducted a countrywide survey about three decades back in order to find out asbestos material in school buildings. Now it is the responsibility of the schools to find out whether dangerous materials such as asbestos are present in their building, Sheppard said.
“It is the responsibility of the schools to ensure that there are no
risk to the safety and health of students and staff. If a school finds
a potentially dangerous material like asbestos, they must inform the
ministry,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard didn’t confirm how the asbestos-containing classrooms were
allowed to be used by students in Seatoun School. He said the
construction companies and project managers in the school must be
proficient to identify and manage deadly materials such as asbestos.
Asbestos is dangerous when it is disturbed or broken. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause deadly diseases such as mesothelioma.
“The safety of students and staff is the top most priority,” Sheppard said. He said the ministry has no plans to contact other Wellington schools because of asbestos concerns.