January 21, 2019

Asbestos found at former school site


Asbestos found at former school site

Asbestos risk: Pupils to study at neighbouring school

Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.

Pupils from an asbestos-contaminated Auckland primary school will be taught at a neighbouring school until the all-clear is given.

Bayfield School in Herne Bay will merge with Ponsonby Primary School for a week while a classroom block with asbestos in its cladding is completely removed from the decile 10 school.

Bayfield Board of Trustees’ chairman David McPherson said the roll of about 350 Bayfield pupils won’t have to squeeze into Ponsonby Primary classrooms.

“We’re not merging classes. Ponsonby has available spaces for our kids – its hall and a number of rooms. There has been talk about combining sports events – that’s part of what would be happening normally.”

The Ministry of Education said schools had freedom to determine arrangements for themselves. A media representative said she was unaware of restrictions about the number of pupils or teachers allowed in a single room.

All of Bayfield will remain closed until a concrete slab can be removed from an old building. “It makes sense to complete the entirety of the demolition,” Mr McPherson said.

His own son will go from Bayfield to Ponsonby Primary this week. “He’s excited about the chance of a new experience, spending a week at a different school,” Mr McPherson said. “Children are resilient and they’ll enjoy it.”

The parent who raised the alarm over asbestos said the coming week would not be without anxiety.

Brett Archer said he organised testing when he noticed asbestos dust coming from cladding on a six-classroom block being demolished at Bayfield School. He said his children wanted to know whether the other kids would be at Ponsonby and where their class would be.

“There’s anxiety – but kids will be kids, they’ll cope well. It’ll be quite a novelty.”

Mr Archer first raised concerns on May 2 in response to an email about the demolition, but said it took until May 7 for independently verified asbestos test results, which he organised, to come back. Mr Archer also inspected the paperwork of the demolition workers himself.

“Everyone was shellshocked, they hadn’t quite realised 1) what the hell was going on and 2) the disjoint between what was happening on site and the paperwork.”

Ministry of Education Head of Education Infrastructure Service, Kim Shannon, told media on Thursday that testing that day found no sign of any asbestos contamination outside the immediate work site area, although further testing would be done.

Mr Archer, who deals with asbestos contamination on a daily basis, said his children’s health and safety was his key concern.

“The MOE has jumped in ferociously. I’m taking comfort that Worksafe and the Board and Ministry of Health are involved. But it took six days for me to get to the point of getting the school closed.

“It’s an absolute disaster any way you look at it; the impact on learning. It’s huge,” Mr Archer said.

Mr McPherson, a lawyer at Bell Gully, continued meeting with Bayfield’s principal and the board this afternoon.


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Asbestos risk: Pupils to study at neighbouring school

Asbestos fears shut down school

Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Bayfield School, Herne Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday.

It’s hoped asbestos-contaminated demolition material that kept an Auckland primary school closed today will be cleared by Monday.

Bayfield Primary School’s 380 students stayed home today because of an asbestos risk from demolition work at the school’s biggest classroom block.

A multi-million dollar building project has been underway at the Herne Bay school, and their main classroom block, a leaky building, had been demolished over the school holidays.

Board of Trustees chairman David McPherson told parents and caregivers on Wednesday night that testing at the site had shown the possibility of asbestos and the school would be closed temporarily.

Head of education infrastructure service for the Ministry of Education Kim Shannon said testing today had shown no sign of asbestos outside the work site.

She said the Ministry was reassured by the results, however more tests will be carried out before the school is reopened.

Mr McPherson said the majority of the demolition work was carried out during the school holidays, and they had expected it to be finished before school resumed.

“Before the school reopened on Monday we sought a number of assurances from the project team that the site was safe and that they had complied with their removal obligations, we got those assurances and no reason to disbelieve them.”

Mr McPherson said he had been taking calls from concerned parents today.

“The questions that our parents have been asking us are the questions we are asking of the contractors and the Ministry,” he said.

“We’ve got to work through a whole lot of processes to get the right information to be able to get that to our parents.”

Work Safe NZ has given contractors the green light to remove the demolished material from the school, and Mr McPherson expected that to be completed tomorrow.

The school will be swabbed and air quality tests will be carried out to ensure no trace of asbestos is found before it is reopened.

He said he hoped students would be able to return to school on Monday, however plans were in motion for a alternative classrooms for the students if the school must remain closed longer.

“We’re not prepared to reopen the school until we’re totally satisfied,” he said.

The Ministry of Education will be investigating the management of the work site.


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Asbestos fears shut down school

Asbestos found at Brisbane school

A Brisbane school oval has been closed off after the discovery of asbestos.

The dangerous substance was found by construction workers who were digging trenches at Graceville State Primary School’s for the foundations of a new classroom block.

The site has been closed off and repairs and a professional clean up is to follow.

A letter sent home to parents said testing had confirmed the presence of asbestos.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says high amount of capital works is underway at schools across the state and it’s not surprising workers have come across asbestos.

“It’s obvious that when we are having a lot of construction and a lot of maintenance (works) that we are going to have these issues of asbestos being uncovered in some of these older sites,” he said.

He said there were a lot of school buildings that predated 1990 and were likely to contain asbestos.

Asbestos was widely used in the as a cheap construction material in Australia, but was banned in 1989 after the discovery that it was highly toxic and caused a range of lung diseases including cancer.

Asbestos-related disease is slow to appear and can take more than 20 years before victims develop symptoms.

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Asbestos found at Brisbane school