HALIFAX – Much-needed renovations at J.L. Ilsley High School in Spryfield that were meant to improve the crumbling school are creating more problems for students.
The 44-year-old school has been undergoing repairs for months now. The long list of problems include a leaky roof, asbestos and falling ceiling tiles.
Just last winter, the school was shut down for a week after a leak in the roof caused damage throughout the building.
Now, new problems have creeped up.
“There was one week where we had no heating and then they turned it back on and there was a bunch of condensation and all of our desks were wet and dewy,” said Grade 10 student Jenna Boutilier.
“In my math class, I was sliding around the classroom.”
Fellow student Kenzie Samson adds to the list of concerns.
“They now have a staircase down because of fumes – gasoline fumes.”
Halifax Regional School Board member Sheryl Blumenthal-Harrison, who represents District 6 Clayton Park West-Spryfield, admits there have been problems with the school but say they are the result of renovations, which are intended to fix the multitude of issues at the school.
Blumenthal-Harrison says the school board does their own testing, along with the departments of environment and labour.
“There was no safety issues. All the testing came back saying there is no risk to anybody including our students, staff.”
Parents want new building
But some parents and students are so concerned, they’ve signed an online petition calling for a new school altogether.
Blumenthal-Harrison says if the community decides they want a new school, she is ready to support that, but calls it a “huge fight.”
She says J.L. Ilsley High is currently at the top of the priority list for repairs in the school board, but pursuing a new building could potentially move it lower on that particular list or halt renovations altogether.
“With the way the province is saying they have no money, it might not be for 10, 15 more years [for a new school]. This school cannot wait 10 or 15 more years,” she said.
She says the building is structurally sound and the renovations will transform the school once completed.
“The building, we were told and I’m telling you, it is safe. It’s structurally feasible to get renovations and additions and alterations.”
Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire, who is an alumnus of the high school, says he too is frustrated. He is willing to work with parents and the community, whether it’s to push for more repairs or pursue a new building.
“Right now, we’ve put aside $2 million to fix the issues but more issues have arisen and we need to address those,” he said.
Education Minister Karen Casey says maintenance issues at schools is not rare but important to address nonetheless.
“It’s not uncommon. Is it preferred? No not at all,” she said.
“We want our schools to be safe and that’s why we’re asking boards to address those concerns. If in fact, it’s deemed that the board is not able to respond to those in Ilsley or in any of our schools then they bring that to our attention and they have an opportunity to submit that as a request to our department.”