When Carbonear Academy first opened its doors Sept. 5, the school board admitted there were going to be a few hiccups, especially since it would be continuing construction during some of the school year.
© Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass
Carbonear Academy, pictured here on Monday, April 29, is slated to open in September, 2014.
Those few hiccups appeared as significant concerns this week when a press release by the office of the official opposition was distributed, criticizing some of the construction projects that are ongoing.
New school has some problems
Carbonear Academy has been referred to by many as a state-of-the-art facility with a good ventilation system, a large gym and new desks, lunch tables and smart boards.
Although the physical building — which is directly across from the Carbonear Recreation Complex — looked like it was completed on the first day of classes, it wasn’t.
Due to an error, the number of anticipated students was underestimated and four new classrooms are currently being built onto the school.
There is also work being completed in other parts of the buiding, including the gymnasium.
Reports of loud noises disrupting classrooms, inability to access the gym and insufficient lunchroom space were a few of the concerns brought up by Liberal MHA Jim Bennett in the release.
Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board CEO Darrin Pike told The Compass he was aware of some construction that had been ongoing, but nothing as significant as outlined in the press release.
“There was some noise disruption with a jackhammer outside the first week of classes,” Pike explained. “But we put an end to that right away.”
He said Marco Construction, the company completing the work, are just doing the final touchups and inspections.
To avoid interruption of class time, the company started sending their workers in after 4 p.m. to do some heftier work.
This led to another concern by Bennett, the MHA for St. Barbe — staff not being permitted in the school after 4 p.m.
Pike said it was for the safety of the school staff and students in order to get the necessary work done.
Issue being addressed
There was a concern brought to the school board several weeks ago regarding the gym. It was originally slated to open Sept. 8, but did not open until Sept. 24.
Pike says there was a small one-eighth inch rise in a section of the gym floor and the administration was deciding how to proceed.
“They could have taken up the floor and fixed the issue,” he said. “Or wait and do the work next summer.”
The school decided to wait since it was not urgent.
Due to construction, students have spent gym classes across the street at the rec plex for three weeks.
Speed bumps and a crosswalk were installed across from the main entrance of the building to the complex prior to the start of school.
Bennett suggested it was a concern for children to cross “a busy highway to get to sports facilities.”
Pike said he believes the crosswalk and speed bumps are sufficient and he has not received any indication otherwise.
“No concerns have been raised about the use of the facilities,” Pike said. “But due diligence must also be considered by parents and teachers (when crossing Valley Road).”
With the gym now open, the trips across the street will not be as frequent, especially in bad weather. But it may pick up again since the school plans on starting a swimming program.
Another issue raised by Bennett was the lack of space in the cafeteria.
This was confirmed by Pike, who admitted the underestimating of the number of students led to a smaller lunchroom than needed. He said a school cafeteria should hold approximately 80 per cent of the student population.
The cafeteria was designed for two sittings so it was expected to hold around 40 percent.
“We base the number around some kids going home for lunch,” Pike explained.
Currently, Grades 1 and 2 students are eating lunch in their classrooms.
“Untimately, in the long term, that may change,” Pike said.
School board calls construction routine
Just like most schools, Pike said, construction can be ongoing.
“It’s pretty routine in our world,” he added.
Officials from the provincial Department of Education responded to an email from The Compass.
“The construction project itself is being managed by the Department of Transportation and Works, which advises us that there have been no concerns around student safety expressed to them by the school administration. They are following up to encourage the administration to report any such concerns should they arise.
“Meanwhile, it is certainly not unusual for students to be attending schools while an extension is being built. This has occurred at 12 separate schools in the past 10 years — and it is currently the case at schools in Grand Falls-Windsor, St. John’s, as well as in Carbonear.”
“There are concerns expressed that staff and students should not even be in that building … I have asked the minister to investigate these matters and assess whether or not this construction zone is a safe environment for our teachers and students.”