Home' Teacher : September 2010 Contents OUTSIDE THE SQUARE 71
Even if it were a requirement immedi-
ately that work on the BER P21 program
be done outside of school hours we would
still have a problem, since residual asbestos
material remains on the school grounds.
Asbestos fibres, when disturbed, are
about as hard to contain as the air we
breathe. What that means, right now where
BER P21 work is going on in your school, is
that there's a risk that microscopic fibres are
being released. These microscopic fibres,
carried on the breeze, can easily collect in
the many communal areas that children
Consider the massive amount of human
movement that takes place on a typical
school day, with children brushing against
walls, sitting on floors, bumping into furni-
ture, getting footballs stuck on roofs and so
on, and there's real cause for real concern.
I've witnessed workers tearing up old
floor coverings, without bothering to prop-
erly secure the site, or even to wear masks
for their ow n protection. This is corner-
cutting at its worst.
Add to this the significant reshuffling of
classrooms, libraries and multi-use rooms
that's currently taking place, hastened by
government-imposed schedules, and there's
more cause for concern.
Furniture and resources that have gath-
ered dust for years are being moved. Cracks
are evident in walls and ceilings; the rims
of air- conditioning vents are inadequately
sealed; carpet and tiles are beginning to
loosen, and are sometimes held down with
nothing more than a strip of black tape.
In some cases, children are being asked
to move their desks and other heavy items
across the school yard to another space
while work is being done.
With all of the moving, there are inevita-
bly times when students are unmonitored,
or certain teachers are left in the care of too
many students, while other teachers, on the
request of their principal, oversee the instal-
ment of items in the destination classroom.
This is all unacceptable of course.
With $16.4 billion being spent, schools
that are at risk deserve special attention.
Given the fact that even minimal exposure
to asbestos can be dangerous, there's a very
real fear that the current work being done
in schools may have a far-reaching effect
on the health of children and adults in our
We would all hope not, but we can do
more than hope: we can demand nothing
short of guaranteed total protection from
exposu re to asbestos in our schools. T
Matthew Talbot is a Queensland c asual
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