A meeting got underway Thursday evening to address concerns over a daycare operating inside a school while an asbestos abatement project was in the works.
Janice Ricci says she pulled her son out of Ascot Avenue Community Daycare, which operates in the basement and first floor of Regal Road Public School near Dufferin Street and Davenport Road.
“We’re just not happy with this, we just feel like there should be no level of exposure to the kids whatsoever,” Ricci told CityNews on Thursday.
Ricci’s son had been attending the daycare for school kids for about two years. The family says he stopped going after July 7th, when the daycare sent parents an email saying asbestos was discovered inside the building.
Asbestos is a carcinogen that was once commonly used in the construction of buildings. If disrupted, as could happen during removal, it poses health hazards.
“As much as the daycare and the TDSB [Toronto District School Board] can say there is no risk for the kids, I feel like there is a risk,” Ricci said. “The fact that they’re in a school when there is an active abatement happening, there is a risk so why not just pick the kids up, and put them at a different location.”
Reporters weren’t allowed inside the meeting, which the board says it organized after receiving a handful of concerns from the daycare.
“In this specific case they’re replacing the heating system in the school by putting in a new boiler,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told CityNews. “When they were doing some of the prep work to get ready for that project, they did notice that asbestos was present.”
Bird says asbestos exists at most of the TDSB’s 585 buildings, given the age of the buildings. He also says the daycare was notified of the upcoming project, and the possibility that asbestos could be discovered.
The work, which is done when the building is completely empty, is completed by trained staff and contractors, and the TDSB says provincial guidelines are strictly followed.
“We have done multiple air tests to ensure that everything is okay, and each of those tests have come back with no concerns what so ever,” Bird explains. “We’ve also had Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Labour following up, and they too have not identified any concerns.”
Though the TDSB says it communicated the work to the daycare, Janice says there was a lack of communication. She filed a complaint with Toronto Public Health, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education.
“We did speak with a representative with the Ministry of Education, who did call us and told us that they were very concerned with what was happening,” Ricci said. “They said that this was a serious situation, and they were already in the works to move the daycare outside of the school within 48 hours.”
Parents tell CityNews there was a last minute proposal to move students to Oakwood School, where Ascot was also operating another daycare, but as time went by, Ricci said it was clear the students wouldn’t be relocated.
The Ministry of Education didn’t give details on that conversation, but a spokesperson tells CityNews the school boards are responsible for ensuring their facilities are in good condition, and comply with provincial health requirements and guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Labour.
“When the ministry became aware of this issue, we immediately contacted public health officials to conduct an investigation. Public health officials are in the best position to determine whether a site is suitable from a health perspective. Since the investigation, the ministry has been working to support the child care to relocate to another location within the school, which was determined to be suitable by public health. It is our understanding the board and child care are hosting a meeting with parents this evening to provide more information and address any concerns. Please contact the school board or child care for more information,” a Ministry of Education spokesperson said in an email.
The school board says work on two of the four floors has been completed, and the project is expected to wrap up in about a month. Plans to relocate the daycare on another floor in the building are currently being finalized.
Ricci is questioning guidelines used to deal with asbestos, asking if the province and the country’s regulations are on par with the rest of the world.
“If the World Health Organization has stronger guidelines, then we should be looking at that and seeing what we could do as a country,” she said.
CityNews contacted the Ascot Avenue Community Daycare, but calls for comments were not returned. Toronto Public Health wasn’t able to meet the deadline for comment.