Riverview School was on speed dial for several concerned parents yesterday after they learned a local company would be removing asbestos from the school while their children were still inside.
"It’s not a job that’s going to be done without concerns or safety issues for your children," said Lynne Bollman, who has three grandchildren who attend Riverview and called the school to voice her concerns on Monday. "If something goes wrong, all those kids are in the school, and why would you risk that?"
The Brandon School Division is replacing a heating system in the school at a cost of roughly $1.1 million. But in order for the process to begin, some asbestos tape has to be removed from the school’s ductwork in the crawl space before demolition of the system can take place.
"In order to accommodate concerns of the public, the work will be performed outside of regular school hours," a statement posted on the school’s website read.
"Power Vac has performed many projects for the Brandon School Division in the past with never any problems of asbestos fibres being released into our schools. The procedure is a Type I removal, which is the lowest risk removal of asbestos."
But for a parent with two children who attend Riverview, reading the online post the morning the removal was to take place wasn’t enough notice.
"Their sneaky way of doing it was just putting a post on their website," said a parent, who asked to remain anonymous. "That is totally after the fact of people calling in and complaining about this."
The parent went on to say he wished the school would have informed parents sooner so they could decide for themselves whether they wanted to send their children to school.
"If they were doing it during the day, I would not want my kids there," the parent said. "I don’t even think it’s proper doing it after hours."
According to the Government of Canada website, asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are released into the air.
Due to its valuable reinforcing, insulation and fireproofing material, asbestos was previously used widely in construction materials such as insulation board, asbestos cement and floor and ceiling tiles.
How exposure can affect those who come in contact with it depends on the concentration of asbestos fibres in the air, how long the exposure lasted and the size of the asbestos fibres inhaled.
The school division’s statement went on to explain that Pinchin Environmental will be monitoring the work this week, which began Monday after 4 p.m., and performing air sampling during and after the removal to ensure provincial and federal guidelines are followed.
The reports will later be forwarded to the division, Riverview and the division’s workplace and safety health officer.
"The decision to proceed with this removal was made in order to accommodate the very tight schedule to have the new heating system up and operating prior to the start of the heating season in November."
Riverview principal Kelly Braun declined comment on the asbestos removal process when contacted by the Sun.
A school division spokesperson said Supt. Donna Michaels was unavailable yesterday.