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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Lead-affected Yarralumla classrooms to reopen by end of month

The ACT Education Directorate expect all lead-affected classrooms at Yarralumla Primary School to be reopened by the end of August, after 11 were closed for cleaning and remediation over the July school holidays.  

High levels of lead contamination have been apparent at the school for several years, which an Education Directorate spokesperson said had been managed for decades. 

“Management plans are in place at the school, informed by expert advice, to ensure instances of lead-based paint remain safe or removed where required,” they said.

“We understand this is not an ideal situation, but we appreciate the patience of the school community while this issue is being resolved.”

However, the Canberra Liberals criticised slow action from the Education Directorate earlier this week, claiming they had taken “far too long” to act. 

ACT Shadow Education Minister Elizabeth Lee announced a Canberra Liberals election promise of $15 million in school maintenance projects over the next four years in response to the incident. 

“We had a briefing (from the Education Directorate) on Friday late afternoon, and this was over a year after I personally raised with the Minister the concerns that parents had raised with me about the presence of hazardous material at Yarralumla Primary School,” she said.

“The commitment that we are making today is $15 million boost for maintenance of our ageing and failing infrastructure in our schools.”

Work on the original eight classrooms with high lead contamination levels began on 6 July, and three further classrooms were closed after an assessment on 17 July.

Three of those classrooms reopened last week, and a further three reopened to students yesterday (20 August).

However, concerned mother Elizabeth Christiansen has already pulled her children out of the school amid concerns of both the lead levels and a lack of temporary classrooms made available. 

“Children are packed into tight areas and during COVID restricted guidelines we are supposed to follow in schools and our communities, how can they be followed?” she said.

“I think the school did the best they could, I think it’s the directorate and the local government that has failed the school, the staff on site, the children and the families. 

“This isn’t just a lead issue, this isn’t just a poor management issue, this is a crisis,” Ms Christiansen said.

The Education Directorate said a clear line of communication has been open to staff and the school community while the situation is being managed.

“The safety of Yarralumla Primary School students, staff and the community is our priority. Classes have been relocated to alternative spaces in the school to make sure students can continue learning with minimal disruption,” the spokesperson said.

“The school is keeping families and staff informed while the remediation work is carried out. It is expected these remaining impacted classrooms will be available to reoccupy by the end of the month.”

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