Quebec – The quality of ambient air in primary schools is poor, what can mortgage the health of children, says the auditor general of Quebec in its annual report filed Thursday to the National Assembly.
The verification of the quality of the air in primary schools was made in six schools as part of three school boards of Québec: the commission scolaire de Montréal, the Navigateurs School Board and the commission scolaire Sorel-Tracy. The name of the visited schools is not in the report.
Various deficiencies, including the presence of mold and asbestos and poor control of humidity, are told to the auditor general that the Ministry of Education been lax in this area and leave school buildings to deteriorate, thus risking harm to children’s health and their productivity in the classroom.
Given their small size, children are more vulnerable to contaminants in the air. This may result in a worsening of symptoms such as headache, asthma, sinus congestion, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
However, inadequate ventilation was observed in all schools visited. Housekeeping also leaves to be desired. For example, in nearly 80% of classes visited, the floor was dirty or dusty. Worse, mouse droppings were present in large quantities in one of these schools.
In some places, the presence of mould reached a level “really worrying”.
No inspection or information
None of the three visited school boards performs annual Visual inspections of the buildings under their responsibility, contrary to what should be done.
Teachers are not aware of the good ventilation practices, and open or close the Windows of the classes at their leisure, without specific direction.
Some classes were sometimes overheated (to 28 degrees) or had a humidity rate (11%) significantly less than the standard (between 30% and 60%).
In two schools, harmful products, such as gasoline, lighter fluid, paint remover and gasoline, were within reach of children.
So general, Acting Auditor, Michel Samson, complains that the Ministry of Education does not require 72 school boards that they are accountable regularly on the quality of the air in their schools.
The school housing stock is old and poorly maintained. The average age of the 1804 primary schools in Quebec is 53 years. More than half a million children visit them.
According to the survey conducted by the team of Mr. Samson, “the boards checked master little the various risk factors related to indoor air quality”. The preventive maintenance of the schools program is “non-structured, or incomplete”, writes in its 2012-2013 report.
Despite an injection of 2.3 billion in the maintenance of the school housing stock from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012, work carried out are not meet the needs, according to Mr. Samson.
Reviewing only six schools on 1804, the auditor acknowledged in press conference that it was dangerous to extrapolate the observations across the school network.
“There is still a concern to management that it of the different risk factors that may affect the quality of the air in schools”, commented Mr. Samson, urging school principals to verify to what extent carried out findings applied to their establishment.
He said deplore “lack of awareness, of concern on the part of the various stakeholders” on these issues.
The President of the Federation of school boards, Josée Bouchard, responded in is taking cuts in the budgets of the commissions.
“It is with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars that is cut in our administrative envelopes”, it commented.
“Select to suppress assistance to children in difficulty in the classes – when it was decided to add resources, and reduce a small little housekeeping, often it is this choice that is done to reduce the housekeeping”, added Ms. Bouchard to justify the situation.
The Education Minister, Marie Malavoy, did not comment.