A mother of a kindergarten student at Mountainview Montessori is alarmed by mould, ventilation and other maintenance issues at the Surrey elementary school.
Chelsea Woo presented to the board of education on Wednesday (June 12) on portables compared to permanent structures and the maintenance for the two different types of buildings.
Woo said she did “a bit of a case study” on her son’s school Mountainview Montessori (15225 98th Ave.), which consists of portable buildings that the district describes as a “modular complex.”
She said there is no ventilation system in the buildings and there was mould found beneath the kindergarten portables.
Surrey Schools spokesperson Doug Strachan said independent consultants did an investigation of mould growth at the school after complaints of a mouldy smell.
“While some cleaning in the crawlspace was recommended and completed, the reports from different times of the year all found air quality was not impacted in the classrooms. There has also been drainage improvement work done,” Strachan said.
Portables need to be monitored for temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide, Woo said, adding that new portables already monitor carbon dioxide.
“Otherwise, how can you know that whether or not the environment is safe? And since they’re not monitored, we just can’t know,” she said. “I don’t think it’s just this school, I think it’s other schools too.”
Surrey Teacher’s Association president Matt Westphal said that portables are “more prone to mould and mildew” given they’re raised off the ground, adding that the “ventilation is terrible.”
The Mountainview structure, he said, is “long past its best-before date.”
— Matt Westphal (@vauvent) June 11, 2019
The portables at Mountainview Montessori, according to Woo’s presentation, are “at least 27 years old” with 1992 manufacture dates, and were placed on the school grounds in February 2000.
Mountainview is listed as “medium” project priority for a school replacement, with Riverdale Elementary ahead of the montessori school.
Woo said the modular buildings at Riverdale are “brand new.” She said she thinks Mountainview should be made “high priority.”
“I’ve asked the criteria for making those decisions – high vs. medium vs. low (priority) for school replacement because, to me, it’s not quite clear why we’re medium priority when we’re literally deteriorating,” Woo said. “We’re so overdue for building replacements.”
Woo said that for a “first school experience,” it wasn’t what she was expecting.
“I know (my son) doesn’t know any different, but I know that’s not the school that I want my son to go to.”
Woo said she has her son on a waitlist for another school, and if accepted, she will be moving him “for sure.”
“But if he doesn’t, I want the bare minimum for them to put a ventilation system in.”
Board of education chair Laurie Larsen, who first heard from Woo at a May 15 board meeting, said she was shocked to hear about the issues at Mountainview.
“The board had asked the staff to present us with some of the issues that were there, so in the meantime, there’s been conversations with Chelsea and with the secretary-treasurer to try and address some of the concerns, but until that we hadn’t heard anything,” Larsen said Thursday, following the June 13 board meeting.
While Larsen hasn’t been on site to Mountainview, she said she has seen “quite a few” photos of the school from Woo’s presentation.
With the school year coming to an end, Larsen said the district will look at fixing some of the issues.
“Certainly the stairs will be addressed, I mean that will be something that will be done right away,” said Larsen, adding that the district will also look at the ventilation issues.
Strachan said that portable and modular buildings “don’t typically include HVAC systems.”
“However, because of the parent’s continuing concern about potential air quality problems, the district is further investigating and will look at ways to increase airflows,” Strachan said.