Kids pulled out of Dartmouth elementary school due to lingering odour

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Several parents pulled their children out of a Dartmouth elementary school Wednesday due to the risk of a cancer-causing chemical compound in the air.

Parents of students at Ian Forsyth Elementary School say they’re worried about their children’s safety due to the lingering odours. Officials initially believed the odour was a result of ongoing work to replace the school’s aging roof, but testing revealed the presence of benzene.

Word spread about the leak Tuesday night, prompting parents to keep their kids at home Wednesday.

“I’ve heard that the air quality is not safe for even workers and that’s at an adult level,” says parent Emily Hattie. “I don’t understand why our kids are allowed (at the school) if it’s not even safe for adults.”

Halifax Regional School Board spokesperson Andy MacNeil said in a statement that the issue has been addressed.

“To clarify, this was an issue separate from the roof, which originated in the boiler room. I recognize that many parents/guardians are concerned about the level of benzene. It was addressed immediately,” MacNeil’s statement reads.

“HRSB operations staff followed up with the consultant (Wednesday). They have confirmed that the school is safe for occupancy.”

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said he knew nothing of the issue Wednesday morning, but was reassuring parents in the legislature by the afternoon.

“At this particular point in time, the best information is telling us the air quality is safe,” Churchill said in the legislature Wednesday.  

But parents say they haven’t heard anything from the school or the school board.

“Nothing sent to us about it, no one’s called,” says parent Rachelle Sparks. “When I went (to the school) this morning I just asked the secretary if she was aware of it, and she said, ‘Yeah.’”       

Churchill says further testing was underway Wednesday and the results will likely be available next week.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.

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