27 Mar, 2012
A bit about the decayed, crumbling, and badly battered Broadview P.S., right here in Ottawa
I’m not sure if I mentioned it here on the blog but I was quoted in the most recent issue of MoneySense Magazine. The article was about Canada’s best places to live and I was pretty much representing Ottawa, which rated #1. You can read the article here. The photo makes me laugh because I was eyeballing Mark’s Beaver Tail and deathly afraid of taking a bite lest I get cinnamon sugar all over my face just in time for ALL OF CANADA to see. Ha.
Anyway, yes, it’s clear that I love Ottawa but missing from this article are a few of the reasons Ottawa drives me absolutely bonkers:
1) The lack of good, cheap, and sexy public transit.
2) The lack of vision and respect for alternative transportation. On one hand we pride ourselves on our outdoor spaces and we like to toot our horn on this topic all of the time. Sure we have the Gatineaus, and pretty bike lanes hugging the river, but is the rest of the city bike-friendly? Not really. Cars come first here in Ottawa.
3) A shortsightedness on many other issues that combine to decrease our smart/cool factor as a capital city. For example: why isn’t Sparks Street better? What is being done to fix the e.coli issues on our public beaches? Why aren’t we, as a city, greener than we are?
I could go on, but I won’t. What I did want to focus on today is an appalling situation at one of our inner city schools, Broadview Public School. Maybe you’ve already heard about it.
How bad is it? Well, first tell me this, would you want your 6-year old’s classroom to be in the basement behind the boiler room? Would you want him or her to walk up and down four sets of stairs to the bathroom? Would you want your kid spending hours every day in mouldy old classrooms that have been in a dire need of serious upgrades for the past twenty years?
I do not want my child going to Broadview so I’ve pretty much decided to send her elsewhere. And I bet I won’t be the only parent making that call… knowing what we now know about the derelict condition of this school.
Here’s something worth noting: Ottawa Public Health launched an investigation into the conditions at Broadview after it was revealed that the school needs $7.5 million in repairs. I have been told that ever since Public Health made their announcement the school has been CRAWLING with Board maintenance staff. Shameful.
“I was tripping over them yesterday and today while I worked in the school,” wrote Broadview parent and past student Tudor Robins in a recent email to me. “Apparently there were 14 Board trucks at the school on Friday morning at 7:15 a.m.”
Tudor went on to outline the many issues that Broadview is facing right now. Bolding is my own.
“Because of our overcrowding we rely heavily on the basement of our school. The music room is currently housed in the basement in what used to be the daycare area. Note: the daycare had to move out of that area due to health and safety concerns. The music room is flooded quite often and the last time had to be moved to the library for five months meaning library access was curtailed to the rest of the school. The other part of the basement our school uses is in the primary wing. There are two classrooms down there with asbestos-coated piping snaking through the ceiling. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t seen it, but to get to the second classroom, you have to pass through this narrow corridor with the boiler and sump-pump on either side of you. It’s kind of surreal. I don’t expect many parents whose children are in newer schools would believe we have classroom access like this. Finally, the only bathrooms for the entire primary wing are in the basement. Considering the primary wing rises four flights of stairs above the bathrooms, it’s be quite a journey for students on the top floor to go to the bathroom.”
Another big issue is with temperature control.
“The boiler is either “on” or “off”. This means, because of our climate, for most of the school year the boiler is on just in case of cold snaps. The building is roasting. As a parent who regularly volunteers in the school I have to always remember to wear short sleeves and, even then, I’m red-faced and overheated by the time I leave - and I’m usually only there for an hour at a time. The classrooms located directly over the boiler pipes are particularly hot. The floor is literally hot to the touch and, despite leaving windows open in January, the temperature is often unbearable. It’s hard for children to learn in this environment.”
I haven’t even touched upon an issue with the gym wall - which is pinned up with rebar - missing window screens, and south-facing classrooms with curtains that are rotting and mouldy. The school is completely inaccessible for disabled or injured people. Apparently, in the intermediate classes, two students will pair up to “carry” a third, injured student up and down the stairs.
Most bathrooms in the school are original. Tudor writes:
“There’s one bathroom in particular that has what we all call the Broadview smell. Seriously, the minute I walked into it as a parent it took me right back to my childhood. It’s a smell I’ve never smelled anywhere else. The bathrooms are really overheated as they’re located along the boiler lines, most have one single soap dispenser, the sinks don’t have mixer taps so you can wash your hands with hot OR cold water but not warm and many of the toilets rock on their foundations.”
What on earth is going on here?
I was speaking to my friend Molly van der Schee about this the other day and I asked her to jot down a few of her thoughts about what is happening at Broadview right now. She has kids at Broadview (whereas I do not) and I thought it was important to also get her perspective. This is what she wrote. I thought it was worth including in its entirety, so please read on.
On Tuesday, March 20, I attended a Parent Council Meeting at Broadview Public School. I knew what the meeting would be about - Repair or Rebuild. That was the calling card for the packed room of concerned parents. Back in the fall, I noticed the school could use a paint job - little did I know until that Parent Council Meeting just how much my child’s school was in need of repairs.
Mould, asbestos and lead paint. Running water in the classrooms that had been shut off years ago. A collapsing gym wall that is being held up by metal strapping and that metal strapping padded with blue mats to protect children from running into the bolts holding it all together. An ancient boiler system that can not be regulated resulting in sweltering, soaring temperatures that make it impossible for students to learn. Windows that don’t open. Classrooms with only two outlets, making the use of today’s new media practically impossible. Exposed wires and electrical panels at kid height. Loss of learning because there is only one bathroom for 250 students in the primary wing. These students trek to the basement only to met by an impossible smell coming from the boiler room. A music room that floods.
I can go on and on. I can also also tell you that the cost of repairing the critical items total $7.5 million. I can also tell you that a new school costs about $12 million. I can tell you that replacing the HVAC system means disrupting asbestos and the safety precautions workers will have to take when removing the old HVAC system to replace it with a new one will be millions of dollars spent in a building that has long ago seen it’s day. With 6 additions put on this nearly century old school, there is no easy way to update a building that is piecemeal, at best. I can tell you about a planned 7th addition to accommodate all-day Kindergarten. A plan that will see $1.4 million wasted because the rest of the building is, literally, coming apart.
I can also tell you that Broadview Public School is much loved. I can speak to you about the three generations of families that have attended this community school. I can talk to you about Walking School Buses. I can talk to you about the number of bikes I saw lining the fences and crammed into the bike racks while we enjoyed the beautiful weather last week. I can talk to you about the teachers who live on my street - neighbours who were once the parents of students who attended Broadview. Only to return as teachers because they know it is a great school.
I can tell you about the commitment we all have to Broadview PS. What I can’t tell you and what I can’t quite figure out, is the lack of commitment on behalf of the Ottawa Carleton School Board. What I can’t put my finger on is how come our politicians aren’t rising to the challenge? We elected them, why aren’t they listening? The Provincial government had better start taking an active interest and start making plans for funding.
I’ve been told that if we want to see a new Broadview, parents need to be loud. This group of parents working towards a new school is a group of smart, committed community members.
Build A Better Broadview is an opportunity to create a facility with vision. An opportunity to reach past quick fixes and band-aid repairs and give the our growing community a school that serves us all, long into the future.
The situation at Broadview is disgraceful, and I am angry. As I re-read this post I realize that it doesn’t sound like we’re describing a school at all, it sounds like a prison. Would you want to work in a place like this? Is this how little we value our children’s educations?
For what it’s worth, you can see a small set of photos here. I will be adding to the set once I’m able to get into the school. If you have photos for stories of your own, now is the time to share them.
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