Principal Fails to Tell Students, Parents about Asbestos Removal

The principal of a Toronto, Ontario (Canada) high school waited three weeks before he informed parents and students that asbestos abatement was taking place at the school on nights and weekends during the school year.

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, the principal “ Varla Abrams “ finally informed the school community of the asbestos removal in a September 22nd email newsletter to the student body and parents, which is only sent to those who subscribed to the publication. Even then, said parents, it was hard to find the article, which was buried on a back page.

Sheila Ward, chairperson of the Toronto School District, immediately issued an apology to parents. We need to be more sensitive at times to what the parents don’t know, Ms. Ward said when she was asked why the 2,000 students at Northern and their parents were not told about the asbestos when they returned to school.

The newsletter article from the principal was linked to a letter from the engineer that was overseeing the renovation project when asbestos was discovered. That letter stated that the mastic putty used for interior window caulking at Northern contained asbestos.

It also noted that the board’s contractor has removed all asbestos materials and windows from the classrooms on the second and third floor of the southwest side of the high school and the rest will be removed after school hours and during weekends.

The asbestos removal, the engineer said, will delay the completion of the renovations for two months.

The lack of information left parents feeling deceived. While they observed scaffolding around the school, they were unaware of what was happening. I was wondering why all that scaffolding was up for such a long time, said Shauna Callaghan, mother of an 11th grade student. Well, I guess that answers that question.

“I think there needs to be, obviously, a letter home to the parents, and probably information packets made available to the kids and to their parents and an apology that we didn’t think to do this at the time. We should be doing that. It should be automatic, I think,” the school board chairperson said.

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