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‘It’s disgusting’: leaky roof at Halifax high school has students voicing concern about safety

HALIFAX – Recent storms have taken a toll on roofs throughout the city, including the one at J.L. Ilsley High School, which began leaking over the weekend.

Students arrived as usual on Monday morning, but were dismissed by 10 a.m. because of the conditions inside.

Grade 10 student Emma Campagna-Ehler described the classrooms and hallways as “disgusting.”

“[There are] buckets being filled with water, ceilings collapsing, garbage bins filled with the ceiling and a really weird smell in the third floor,” she said.
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Campagna-Ehler sent photos of the school to her uncle, Brendan Maguire, who happens to be the area’s Liberal MLA and an alumnus of the school.

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Maguire arrived at the school on Monday morning to speak with the staff and called the situation “unacceptable.”

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The building, which was constructed in 1970, has had issues with its aging infrastructure in the past and Maguire said the problems aren’t isolated to this recent storm.

“This isn’t the first time I’m standing here mad, frustrated, ticked off,” he told Global News outside the school.

Maguire said the province allotted more than $1 million to the school last spring for renovations. Part of that project included renovating the roof.

“It almost feels like we’re at a standstill. There were timelines,” he said. “The project has to be done by the end of March. We were told it may have been done earlier but you can see – you can look up there right now – there’s nobody up there right now.”

Parents are equally upset and some said they won’t be letting their children back into the school until the building is safe.

Sylvia White went to the school to pick up her 18-year-old son Bryan and doesn’t intend on having him return.

She said her son has had headaches, as well as worsened symptoms of asthma while at school, and has complained about the conditions for the past three years. Last fall, a message was sent home after asbestos was found during renovations.

“There are too many kids at that school that have health issues now as it is,” White said. “I’m suggesting to most of the parents right now: if you have the opportunity, take your kids out of the school, send them somewhere else, they’ll be safer.”

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White has since started an online petition, urging the school board to close J.L. Ilsley High School temporarily and transfer students elsewhere until the school can be repaired.

“Knowing the fact that I could die in my school from the roof caving in or the mould in the ceiling …it’s horrifying. I don’t want to be in a school where my life is at risk or anyone’s life for that fact,” said her son, Bryan.

Doug Hadley, the spokesman for the Halifax Regional School Board, said he understands the frustrations. He said an air quality test was taken last fall and came back with acceptable levels.

“I’m sure we’ll do whatever is needed to ventilate the school and if there is a need for any testing we will do so,” Hadley said.

“We’re not going to knowingly put people back into a situation that is unsafe so we are absolutely committed to making sure the building is safe for occupancy.”

He added that the section of roof that leaked this weekend is not part of the $1 million project. Instead, it’s a separate section of roof that was only renovated a decade ago. The school board is now looking into whether warranty covers it.

“We understand people are frustrated. We absolutely feel the school is safe,” he said. “We’ve actually made a number of requests for multi-million dollar renovation projects to happen within J.L. Ilsley and we’re very committed to upgrading the facility.”

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