Dear Alouette families,
As some of you may know, a number of staff at Alouette Elementary received a breast cancer diagnosis in the past two years, with the most recent diagnosis having been received shortly before winter break. Because the impacted staff worked in one area of the school, staff raised concerns about the possibility of carcinogens in the workplace.
Our school district reached out to WorkSafe BC, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the medical health officer for guidance in November and also began to proactively conduct environmental testing. We had the facility assessed for friable asbestos, mould, air quality, water quality, and reviewed the custodial supplies used at the school. We are still awaiting the results of air quality testing, but all other results were received and shared with the BCCDC, WorkSafe BC and the medical health officer, who confirmed the testing did not identify any possible sources that could cause breast cancer, and who advised that the next step is for BC Cancer Agency to complete an assessment.
The health and safety of our students and staff is always our top priority, and we are committed to following any and all direction that we may receive from public health experts. While we have been dedicated to following up on staff concerns, we are also mindful of and attempting to respect the right to privacy of the staff members who have been impacted by their diagnosis.
I know you will have many questions. I have included information for you below that I hope will help address any concerns you may have.
If you would like to speak with someone about how to talk with your child about this matter or how you can support your child, please reach out to Alouette school counsellor, Ms. Ferris.
Superintendent of Schools
Is the school safe?
The school district has conducted a series of tests, which have been shared with WorkSafeBC, the BCCDC, and the medical health officer, who confirmed the testing did not identify any safety concerns.
How will I be kept informed about any important updates or new information?
Any important updates or new information will be communicated to staff and families directly.
What were the results of the tests the school district conducted?
The school district conducted the followings tests, the results of which were shared with staff, WorkSafeBC, the BCCDC, and the medical health officer:
- Asbestos. The school district contracted an occupational health and safety consulting company to review our inventory of friable asbestos in the building. Friable asbestos is a type of asbestos that can pose health risks. No friable asbestos was found.
- Lead. Paint samples were collected from classrooms – all were non-lead-based paint.
- Water chemistry. Full chemistry test of water quality was conducted and determined all levels were below and within acceptable standards.
- Water quality. School districts must complete lead content testing on all school facilities once every 3 years. A minimum of 1/3 (or 33%) of the school facilities in a school district’s inventory must be tested each year. In addition to this regular testing, we conducted the following two series of tests at Alouette:
- The first series of tests was limited to all water sources in the area that staff had identified as a concern (11 water sources). With the exception of one sink, all water sources provided good quality water without the need to flush. The levels of lead for the water source were slightly above the recommended maximum before flushing for 30 seconds, and well below the recommended maximum after flushing. Replacement of the faucet addressed the issue.
- The second series of tests assessed the quality of all remaining water sources in the school (19 water sources). All water sources were below the recommended maximum levels after flushing; seven water sources returned results above acceptable levels before flushing. Faucets in these all these rooms were replaced and the water source will be retested.
- Mould. The occupational health and safety consulting company also tested the facility for mould. No visible mould staining was identified, and no elevated levels of mould spores were found.
- Air quality testing. The HVAC system is fully functional, regularly maintained and meets all health and safety standards. We conducted air quality testing and are awaiting results.
- Custodial supplies. We reviewed our inventory of custodial supplies used at the school and confirmed with the BCCDC that no products or ingredients of concern were found.
- Pest control products. We reviewed the inventory of products used by our pest control contractor and again confirmed with the BCCDC that no products or ingredients of concern were found.
Whom do I contact if I have questions about my health or my child’s health?
For general questions about health, contact your physician or other health-care professional directly for advice. You can also speak to a health-care professional any time, day or night, by calling 8-1-1 or visiting HealthLinkBC.