Worried parents demand answers in school asbestos row

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A row has blown up over the removal of asbestos from a primary school while nursery pupils are still in the building.

Worried parents of the 100 children affected at Holy Family Primary School are now demanding answers from East Dunbartonshire Council.

The school at Boghead Road closed last summer for vital repair work after the shock discovery of structural damage in the building.

Although the 350 primary school age pupils have been decanted to the old Lairdsland Primary at Kerr Street, the pupils at the nursery are still being taught in the Holy Family building.

Nursery school parents only discovered about the asbestos removal – which they believe is due to take place within weeks - in a letter from head teacher Frances O’Connell dated March 1.

In the letter, the headteacher told parents she had met with a representative from the council who had “assured” her the nursery would not be affected the the work.

She added: “The doors at the end of the corridor in which the nursery is located will be sealed off for the duration of the work.

“The back entrance will be the access route for work vehicles and therefore I stress that all children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.”

According to a March newsletter update from Holy Family Parent Council, the asbestos found in the school is associated with the materials used in the original construction of the building.

The Parent Council also told parents that East Dunbartonshire Council had assured them that the work “can be safely removed during the decant.”

But a parent of a nursery pupil told the Herald: “The 100 nursery pupils have not been decanted. Do any of the representatives of the Parent Council themselves have a child in the nursery? Would they like their child to be left in the building?

“We only heard about this in the letter from the head teacher. It’s a disgrace there has been no consultation. No one is telling us anything. We don’t know what to do. We are so concerned about the health of our children.

“They are saying the doors will be sealed. What type of seal? What about the vents? There are airborne particles from asbestos.

“There are so many questions that have to be answered. We demand these answers.

“The workmen who carry out the removal will have special protective suits. Our children do not.”

She added: “We are also suspicious this has something to do with the budget and is being rushed through before April.”

However, several hours after the Herald contacted East Dunbartonshire Council for a comment, a senior council officer said the work would not be taking place during term time - despite the letter from the head teacher stating children should be accompanied by an adult because of the work vehicles at the back entrance.

Director of Neighbourhood Services, Grace Irvine, said, “Works to remove and dispose of asbestos within the Holy Family Primary School building on Boghead Road, will commence on 14, March 2016.

“The asbestos will be removed from six enclosed areas within the building. The asbestos removal in the nursery corridor will take place during the Easter holidays when the school is vacant.

“All materials identified as containing asbestos will be removed in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 by the approved contractor. After each stage of the removal, a four stage clearance inspection, reassurance air tests and personal monitoring will be carried out by an independent UKAS accredited analytical company before the contractor moves on to the next area.

“We appreciate the concerns of parents but these works will pose no risk to children who attend Holy Family nursery school and after school care. We will be writing to parents detailing the planned works and answering specific questions that have been raised.”