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LETTER: Trust is earned, not expected

Exterior of the former English Language School board as construction crews work to renovate the building into a black box theatre, office space and kitchen space for the culinary and foods classes. ©JOURNAL PIONEER/Millicent McKay
Exterior of the former English Language School board as construction crews work to renovate the building into a black box theatre, office space and kitchen space for the culinary and foods classes. ©JOURNAL PIONEER/Millicent McKay - Millicent McKay

Since the beginning days of the renovations at Three Oaks Senior High (TOSH), concerned parents have been expected to simply “trust” that their children have been safe throughout construction, though it was found that breaches in asbestos safety protocol have occurred.

Air quality test results that started being shared with these parents in April 2018 have led to email exchanges and a few select meetings with representatives from the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, the Department of Education, the construction company leading the project, and others. However, many questions have been left unanswered, and concerns for the current and future well-being of students persist.

Some parents have even been forced to request (and pay for) information through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act- a process that has been slow and frustrating.

In October 2018, some of the parents were informed unexpectedly that the Chief Public Health Office would be undergoing a review of the potential exposure to asbestos, lead and other particulates at TOSH. Having an outside, impartial detailed review of the processes and possible consequences of the breaches reported was a most welcome reprieve, and something for which these parents had long advocated.

On Nov. 19, 2018, the Chief Public Health Office released a one-and-a-half-page memo sharing the results of the review.

While the memo highlights that there was “an inadvertent lapse in abatement and construction protocol,” it also states that “information related to events which occurred during the abatement and construction phases of the project at TOSH was reviewed in detail...The review has concluded that there was no significant student exposure to lead (dust) or asbestos during the review period.”

What it doesn’t state is how this conclusion was reached, what information they reviewed, what methodology was implemented, and how they chose to exclude information such as lived experiences of students and other firsthand reports. One might assume that this memo would be followed by a comprehensive report, but to date, no report has been released. Again, parents are asked to simply “trust” that everything is fine, with very little concrete information to support that claim.

Trust must be earned before it should be expected. What seems to be lost in all of this is that these are parents who are genuinely concerned about the health and wellbeing of their children. Parents who fear their children may have been exposed to a potentially deadly substance. As a parent, I can’t imagine a worse feeling than that. The Green Party of P.E.I. eagerly awaits the public release of the full report from the public health review of this matter so that we can all gain a much more complete understanding of the issue.

Trish Altass is the Green Party Candidate in District 23, Tyne Valley - Sherbrooke. 

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