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Summerside parents raise concerns about TOSH construction

Toby MacDonald, left, and Samantha MacPherson raised concerns Friday at the legislature about the health effects of renovations underway at Three Oaks Senior High School.
Toby MacDonald, left, and Samantha MacPherson raised concerns Friday at the legislature about the health effects of renovations underway at Three Oaks Senior High School. - Ryan Ross

Government says air quality tests have been within acceptable guidelines at Three Oaks Senior High

The mother of a Three Oaks Senior High School student says construction in the building is causing health problems.

Samantha MacPherson’s daughter Nicole is in Grade 10 and will be leaving her classmates behind as she changes schools to get away from the construction.

“I’m not very happy about it,” Samantha said Friday in Charlottetown.

Samantha was at the legislature where she spoke to the media about her concerns related to ongoing renovations that started in March 2017.

Samantha detailed some of Nicole’s health issues that have developed since going to the school, including that she can’t seem to catch her breath and she has trouble functioning in class.

The problems have been causing Nicole anxiety, Samantha said.

“It’s just very disruptive.”

The 16-year-old student’s mother said her daughter’s attendance has also suffered, going from a few missed days in the first semester to 13 in the second.

“She’s not usually a sick kid.”

Samantha said a doctor has diagnosed Nicole with a pulmonary disease that was construction-dust related.

Related: Concerns raised about safety of students and staff at TOSH

Related: TOSH officials address concerns from parents, students

Opposition MLAs in the legislature Friday questioned how the project is being handled in light of some students reporting health issues, like Nicole has.

Education Minister Jordan Brown said measures have been taken to ensure students are as comfortable as possible.

Brown, an official with the Public Schools Branch and a spokeswoman for the Infrastructure Department all said air quality tests at the school met Health Canada guidelines.

Those include tests for particulates, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide with results, the department spokeswoman said, being presented to a committee that included representatives from the school’s health and safety committee, the Public Schools Branch and an environmental consultant.

John Cummings, director of corporate services for the Public Schools Branch, also said there hasn’t been an increase in absences at the school compared to last year.

In Nicole’s case, Samantha said her daughter was away from the school for two weeks during her March break and didn’t experience any breathing problems during that time.

“Then four hours back into school she’s back on her puffers.”

Samantha said she didn’t know what the extent of the renovation project was going to be when Nicole started her Grade 10 year.

“I didn’t think it was going to be a huge thing,” Samantha said.

Toby MacDonald doesn’t have a child at the school, but her daughter Lydia finished Grade 12 at Three Oaks a year ago.

At times the dust was so thick it was like clouds and Lydia would come home with her backpacked covered in it, Toby said.

“She would be home and she would literally drop to her knees with chest pain.”

Toby said Lydia’s health has improved some since leaving the school, but she still finds it hard to go up even a few flights of stairs.

“She is still having some health concerns, but not as much as when she was attending Three Oaks.”

With the construction expected to continue, Toby said she would like to see more air filtration, more cleaning and more air testing at the school.

She also said Islanders should be concerned about what is happening at Three Oaks.

“Whenever you have a government who blatantly refuses to address concerns of students and concerns of a community they are negligent in doing their duty,” Toby said.

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