Smelly classroom startles parents

Fears of mould prove groundless, but classroom odorous

Elke Baechmann

Elke Baechmann

Reports of potential mould in a classroom at 100 Mile House Elementary School have led to investigations by School District #27 (SD27) and the Parent Advisory Council (PAC).

After hearing the children were supposedly wearing coats and hats in a classroom where windows were wide open, the school’s PAC took immediate action.

School PAC president Elke Baechmann went to the school on Nov. 21, the day the report came in and talked to principal Donna Rodger. She also followed up with visits and calls during the following week or so, while SD27 was checking into it.

Baechmann says she did not witness children with coats on, but did speak to various SD27 administration and staff members, who confirmed a smell had been reported in a classroom and that it would be checked.

SD27 superintendent Mark Thiessen says investigations were carried out shortly after hearing these reports, and a bad smell was discovered emanating from somewhere in a classroom.

“After hearing secondhand reports of a possible mould issue in a 100 Mile House Elementary classroom last week, [SD27] conducted two thorough on-site inspections.”

After finding no obvious signs of mould or water damage, district maintenance staff drilled several holes into the walls and by using a camera to take a closer look, he explains.

“No mould was found, and the wood and insulation in the walls appeared to be in very good condition.”

While the cause of the smell was determined by SD27 to not be caused by mould, some other potential odorous sources were found, he explains.

Three heater ventilator units in the classroom were cleaned, and additional insulation was provided to one of the units.

“Maintenance staff also discovered a vent going to a crawl space in the classroom. The crawl space was inspected and was found to be clean, dry and mould free.”

He adds the vent will be sealed up, as it is not needed, and so will a similar vent found in an adjacent classroom.

“While no mould has been found, the district is hopeful that the odour problem has also been taken care of.”

Baechmann adds she is relieved, but notes is it fortunate she and SD27 were alerted to what potentially could have been a hazardous situation because no one came forward to them with this problem directly.

“I’m glad that it was reported and that the district went after it, and there is no mould – even though it is an old school – and that the kids’ health is not in any unsecured state there.”

She’d like parents and students to know they can bring their concerns to the PAC confidentially, and that their privacy and identity as the source of any issue will be protected.

“They don’t have to talk to the teacher or the principal by themselves. We can support them; that is our role as a PAC.”

There is a protocol for bringing any school issues forward, she explains, which is to alert the PAC, the teachers and/or the principal first, before going “higher up” to the district or the ministry.

The smelly classroom is yet another example of the need to replace the aging elementary school, she notes.

“I, as a PAC member, and I know every other parent would like to see a new school there because it’s very old.”

Baechmann says she also talked to Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett about the issue and the need for a new school to be rebuilt soon. Barnett later informed her she had called the school board, she adds, and it is on their comprehensive plan, but no timing was yet available on the rebuild.

New SD 27 chair Tanya Guenther says the replacement of 100 Mile House Elementary is the board’s number 1 priority on its five year capital plan.

Last year’s school closures in SD27 have driven up occupancy at other facilities, she explains, better positioning the district to prove the need for a new school to the Ministry of Education.