School officials say environmental testing at John Bernard Croak Memorial School has deemed it safe for the children to be in the classrooms.

“We’ll be monitoring the situation throughout the construction period," said Michelle MacLeod, spokesperson for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education.

Work at John Bernard Croak ceased Oct. 22, after roof construction caused excessive noise and vibration in the school resulting in some debris falling from the ceilings in several classrooms.

In an earlier statement MacLeod said the centre issued a stop work order until measures could be put in place that ensured construction activities were not causing excessive vibration or noise while students are present.

Samples of the debris and air were sent to EMSL Analytical Inc. in Ontario for testing to determine composition and the results were sent to EXP Services in Sydney which prepared the analytical report. The conclusion of the report states the classrooms, hallways and lunch room can be safely reoccupied. The report details there was no detectable asbestos fibres in air sampling and bulk sampling showed no detectable asbestos fibres in the dust collected. The total dust air samples were acceptable.

The report reads, "The arsenic concentration is most likely elevated due to the location of the school in a coal mining community, in addition, Nova Scotia is known to contain high arsenic levels in the ground based on its geological formation.”

The report also notes the samples were collected prior to the deep cleaning carried out between Oct. 25-27.

There were also recommendations detailed in the report — suggesting plastic be hung below the ceiling during future roof work to catch any dust released and that work should cease if dust is not contained by that method. Housekeeping should continue to keep the classrooms clean.

A letter on the Cape Breton-Victoria centre website states that construction will resume in phases once officials are satisfied the work can proceed with little disruption to students and staff. Steps have been put in place regarding the noise level, classrooms below construction activities will be sealed and students temporarily moved to other classrooms within the school while construction occurs.

Prior to the testing, the Cape Breton Post received several emails from people saying they were concerned for their children’s safety. One parent commented children stayed in classrooms for four days while the jackhammer worked above them and instead of being sent home, the children had to remain in the dirty classrooms with debris falling on their heads.

However, MacLeod said the incident described happened once and as soon as some debris fell, the work stopped and the children were immediately moved.

Jillian Walker of Glace Bay, who is helping to raise her boyfriend’s two children, said when work is being done — especially on an older school — parents should be notified.

At the first of the year, a memo was sent home saying that construction would be taking place at the school, however Walker said they weren’t told the specifics of the intended work.

Walker said they sent the children to school all last week and it wasn’t until Thursday a stop work order was issued.

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“My concern is, why wasn’t a note sent home Monday stating the work that was going to be done, the risks involved?” she questioned. “Then it should have been up to us as their parents whether to send them to school.”

Walker said her family lives in regional housing and whenever work is going on — because it is an older building — they have to leave.

As well Walker wants to know when the air quality was tested, whether samples were taken before or after the area was cleaned up.

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