Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer

Asbestos findings result in potential closing of Pipestone Elementary School

Town hall held by WRPS to discuss the findings and next moves for the school on Nov. 30, 2021.

UPDATE (Dec. 2, 2021)—

The evening of Wednesday Dec.1, 2021, WRPS informed parents and guardians of Pipestone School students through an email that the air quality testing results had come in.

Air quality test results came in within an acceptable range.

“At last night’s consultation, parents made it clear that they would like their children to return to school as quickly as possible,” the email stated.

Students and staff returned to Pipestone School on the regular schedule, including bussing, on December 2.

WRPS says that, “the Board will be meeting in December to further discuss the Pipestone School Scoping Report and will inform families once more details are available.”

The future of the school is still uncertain as the WRPS Board weighs the recommendations and results from the scoping report.

In the report by Berry Architecture and Associates it is recommended based on the findings of the scoping exercise that Pipestone School is replaced with a new school or is closed down and students are transported to the next closest school, based on the asbestos findings, building structure and electrical.

“We have significant fire code and building code concerns with the school. From a student and staff safety standpoint, major building renovations will be a huge challenge due to the structural repairs and upgrades needed,” the scoping report states.

“Considering the age of the building, and the last major renovation was approximately 40 years ago, the aesthetics of the school are in good condition. When you start to dig deeper into the facility looking at the structure, mechanical systems, electrical systems, and life safety we found multiple concerns.”

“Most of the items of concern are related to building code, building safety, and efficient building operations, and our concerns are also noted and agreed with by the structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers.”

Original Story (Dec. 1, 2021)

The future of Pipestone Elementary School, a Wetaskiwin Regional Public School (WRPS), is uncertain following the discovery of asbestos during a hazardous material report conducted at the end of November 2021.

On Tuesday Nov. 30, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. WRPS held a town hall for parents of Pipestone School students to discuss the findings of the report and possible future of the elementary school.

The town hall was held just hours after WRPS informed parents of Pipestone students that the school would be closed on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, 2021 while air quality tests are conducted for traces of asbestos.

During the hazardous material assessment it was discovered that the presence of asbestos was confirmed in drywall jointing compound, floor goods, and discarded mechanical insulation in a basement crawlspace underneath the central gymnasium area.

When questioned about why it took this long to find asbestos in the school given its age, Director of plant facilities for WRPS, Brian Hog, stated that it was due to the fact that the asbestos was located in a crawl space area that staff and students do not have access to—therefore is never disturbed.

The asbestos was discovered in the last hazardous materials assessment done for Pipestone School, which Hog noted was the last time major renovations were done to the school therefore an assessment was required. The last assessment was conducted in 1985, however, it appears that the asbestos was then boarded up and forgotten about.

During the question period of the town hall parents were frustrated with the lack of communication and the incredibly short time frame in which they were informed that their children would be missing school on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tensions ran high as parents expressed their frustration at the uncertain future for the school given that if the air quality tests test positive for asbestos the students will have to be located to a different school as soon as possible.

WRPS Trustee Karen Becker stated that they would hope to relocate all students to Falun Elementary School, while some others may be faced with transferring to Millet’s Griffiths Scott School.

Superintendent of WRPS Peter Barron says that given a relocation, “our goal would be of course to keep the kids together with their teacher.”

Should there be a relocation WRPS hopes to have all students relocated to Falun School and to keep all classes and their teachers together. At Falun school room would have to be made inside the school and available space for students as portables is not an option at the moment.

“The challenge is there isn’t any portables available,” says Barron. “That’s likely not really an option at this point.”

Barron reminded participants in the town hall that no official decisions will be made until the air quality test reports are back, which are to come in Monday Dec. 6, 2021 at the latest.

Some parents argued that there was no reason to cancel school on the Wednesday and Thursday stating that their children have been breathing the air at Pipestone School all year and one or two more days, regardless of results would not change anything.

Others worried about the potential change to online learning while a transfer is set up, should it become necessary, as the past year has shown them inconsistency with online to in-person learning takes its toll on their children.

Most expressed frustration at the lack of a clear best case scenario plan and a plan B, saying they understood that if the school has asbestos it is safest to move, however they want to know as far in advance as possible the options to make the best decisions for their children’s schooling.

As for now, WRPS trustees say sit tight and wait for the test results to come back.

WRPS Trustee Kyle Dorchester stated, “the writing is not on the wall, there are no decisions that have been made.”

Updates to come…



shaela.dansereau@pipestoneflyer.ca

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