Asbestos classroom disrupts kids

CHILDREN at Ballina Public School are being taught in “makeshift classrooms”, some reportedly without furniture, because the NSW Department of Education has failed to fix an asbestos-ridden building.

Four classes are displaced as a result of the building being declared off-limits.

It was closed in October last year, after asbestos was found on both levels of the old two-storey building.

The Northern Star understands the building was meant to be fixed over the Christmas school holidays so it would be ready for the 2011 school year.

But as school started on Monday and kindergarten students arrived for their first day yesterday, the building was still off-limits.

It is believed school resources – including books, boards and furniture – are locked away in the asbestos classrooms.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Training said that was not the case.

“This issue was first reported at the end of October 2010, and the building was closed to classes straight away,” she said.

“Four classrooms have been affected.

“The school has 10 spare rooms which have been used to accommodate affected classes.

“No classes were held in hallways or without furniture.”

However, it is understood that the “spare rooms” include spaces such as the band room, preschool room and the library, so the situation is also affecting other school activities.

The department spokeswoman said it was estimated that the building would be ready to occupy by early March.

She did not say why the building was not fixed over the Christmas school holidays.

North Coast organiser for the NSW Teachers' Federation, Nicole Major, said it was an unacceptable situation.

“I think it would be quite disruptive for the students,” she said.

“There are really specific requirements around asbestos and asbestos removal – we need safe environments for students, staff, parents and anyone else in the school grounds.

“But it is not appropriate that at the start of the school year these students don't have an appropriate learning environment.

“Arrangements should have been put in place.”

Ms Major said Ballina Public School had “great teachers who do an amazing job with limited resources”.

“When you've got 30 kids or so, it's a hard job at the best of time,” she said.

“Coming back from holidays, you want to be able to settle them into a good routine.

“Students need classrooms.”

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