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Updated Jan. 3/14: Information about radon levels at the Sir Winston Churchill site

Updated January 3, 2014:

We look forward to welcoming all students back to school on Monday, January 6, 2014.

This is a follow-up to the December 23, 2013 information (see below) about elevated radon levels being present in a number of areas at Sir Winston Churchill (SWC), including classrooms. These results were found through testing conducted by a third party as part of a potential property transaction.

Letter to families of students at Sir Winston Churchill (pdf)

When Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board became aware of elevated levels of radon, school board officials immediately consulted with environmental specialists, the Ministry of Labour, the Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Health Unit and the Public Services Health & Safety Association.

School board officials were advised that ventilation is an effective way to manage radon levels. Ventilation systems were reviewed and monitored throughout the holidays and will continue to be reviewed and monitored regularly. In addition, Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board retained an environmental engineering firm to take diagnostic radon measurements from Monday, December 23, 2013 to Thursday, January 2, 2014 to verify that increased ventilation was reducing radon levels. Results from those measurements, which were shared with the Health Unit, indicate that radon levels are within acceptable levels as of Friday, January 3, 2014 and the building can be safely occupied.

On Monday, January 6, 2014, the environmental engineering firm will continue to measure levels during normal occupancy and building use. This work will include both short- and long-term testing, as well as implementing action plans, to sustain acceptable levels over time, according to Health Canada guidelines.

Parents of students at SWC will also receive a Synrevoice (voicemail) message this evening.

Updates will be shared with families and continue to be posted online, as well as on Twitter feeds for the school board (@HPEschools) and the school (@HarryJClarkePS).

For more information, please contact:
Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer, kdonnell@hpedsb.on.ca

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Posted December 23, 2013: Student and employee safety is the first priority in our schools.

Late in the afternoon of Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board was made aware of elevated radon levels in a number of areas at the Sir Winston Churchill site, including classrooms. The building is occupied by Kindergarten and Grade 1 students and employees from Harry J. Clarke Public School, and is also the site of the Early Years Program provided by Family Space. The test was conducted by a third party as part of a potential property transaction.

School board officials immediately contacted the Ministry of Labour and were advised that there was no immediate risk to students or employees.

On Thursday, December 19, school board personnel, including the School Superintendent, the Health and Safety Officer, and Facility Services personnel were on site to meet with employees, ensure appropriate ventilation and to monitor the situation. We have been advised that ventilation is a way to reduce radon levels. Ventilation systems continue to be monitored to maintain airflow throughout the building.

Short-term actions currently underway
Consultation with two environmental specialists, the Ministry of Labour, the Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Health Unit and the Public Services Health & Safety Association has taken place. In addition, we have engaged an environmental engineering firm to retest for a 2-week period, from Monday, December 23, 2013 to Friday, January 3, 2014. The results of the tests over the next two weeks will be used to refine our next actions.

Communication updates
We will continue to communicate with families of children in the school and our employees as information becomes available. In addition, updates will be posted on this website, shared with local media and communicated through Twitter.

Information about radon
According to Health Canada radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment. When radon is confined to enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces, it can accumulate to high levels. Radon concentrations fluctuate seasonally. Radon is present outdoors and in every building. In addition, Health Canada indicates the risk from radon exposure is long term and depends on the level of radon, how long a person is exposed and their smoking habits.

Additional information is available on the Health Canada website at this link: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/radiation/radon/index-eng.php

For more information, please contact:
Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer, 613-966-1170 or 1 800 267-4350, extension 2354.

Last updated: December 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm