A local family that attends a junior high school south of Edmonton is raising safety concerns over the state of their current learning environment due to ongoing construction on the building.
“It’s not a safe environment for children, it’s a work site,” said mother Brandy Wachter.
A video recorded inside J.E. Lapointe School in Beaumont, Alta. on Monday shows water pouring from the ceiling, flooding the hallway with students nearby.
“It wasn’t a drip. It was a downfall of water coming from the ceiling in the hallway. Where is that water going? Is it creating mold? What’s going on here?” Brandy questioned.
Brandy’s daughter, Paige Wacther, is a Grade 9 student at the school. Paige recorded the video while heading into class on Monday morning.
“I had no clue how this happened,” she explained. “I was very shocked that that was happening at my school, in the middle of the hallway where students are supposed to be getting to class, getting to their lockers, going to learn.
“It was just chaotic that morning.”
Dangling electrical wires, exposed ceilings, noise and dust are among other concerns.
“Most of the school is torn apart and old and looks like a construction site,” Paige said. “The ceilings are vents and wires and the lights are not lights, they’re electrical construction lights.
“A drainpipe along the ceiling came undone, which resulted in fresh rainwater coming from the pipe,” Black Gold Regional Division No. 18’s spokesperson, Danelle Boivin, said in an email. “The problem was rectified as soon as possible, and as such, there was no risk to students or staff.
“The school remains safe during construction. Students are unable to access the active construction areas as those areas are walled off. The school has passed all required safety tests — student safety and maintaining an environment conducive to learning are our priorities.”
Paige said the work has led to learning disruptions in the classroom.
“During classes there’s a lot of drilling and hammering and there’s people walking on the roofs, dropping things and there’s dust coming down,” she said.
“I’m kind of upset at how my school year is going because it’s very disrupting and it’s hard for me to focus in class.”
The school is in the midst of a modernization. The work was originally scheduled to be completed in September 2019. However, earlier this spring the completion date was pushed back to December 2019.
Construction also caused a week’s delay for students heading back to class this fall. Instead of going back to school on Sept, 4, students returned on Sept. 10.
“I thought there was going to be a lot more progress to the school since they had an extra week and they had all of summer to work on the school but there wasn’t much progress,” Paige said. “It’s still pretty torn apart.”
Alberta Education said the project is being managed by the Black Gold School Division and it’s not uncommon for students to remain in a building that is undergoing a modernization.
Education Minister David Eggen said he is aware of the water leak that occurred at J.E. Lapointe on Monday and the government is “actively monitoring the issue.”
“The health and safety of our students is our top priority and I understand that the school authority acted swiftly to make sure students are safe and able to learn,” Eggen said in a statement to Global News.
“While it is unfortunate that there have been delays over the course of construction at this school, I am confident that the school authority is managing this project with students’ best interests in mind. As this is a modernization, students are still learning in the school while construction is ongoing, during which time safety of students is paramount. We will continue to monitor the project and be in touch with Black Gold School Division going forward to ensure students are attending school in a safe learning environment.”
Still, Brandy believes the province and school board should do more to ensure the safety of students and staff.
“There’s construction workers walking in the hallways, they’re wearing steel-toe boots and hard hats. The kids aren’t. It’s a work site. How is that safe for our children to be working in?”
Brandy suggests moving the kids to another school while the work is done.
“I would prefer her to be in a crowded classroom before being in this kind of situation.”
The exterior grounds of the school also remain under construction, with large equipment and crews on site. The area being worked on is fenced off, but remains largely unfinished.
School officials said in September that the road in front of the school is scheduled to be paved by the Town of Beaumont in mid-September and the parking lot is scheduled to be complete in mid-October.
The province said the school board has run into a variety of unforeseen issues within the school, such as soil condition and delays in permitting and municipal approvals.
“A lot of progress has been made to modernize the school,” Boivin said. “Six new modular classrooms have been added and a new gymnasium is near completion, which will provide an enhanced learning environment for the students.
“We will be inviting our school community to see the additions once the work to the gymnasium is complete later this fall.”