Toronto Catholic District School Board believes in Magic

di Joe Volpe del 24 February 2020

TORONTO - There’s magic in those walls… people call it asbestos and mould.

Can’t invent such flippant frivolity even for a catchy headline. Trustee Ida Li Preti offered that “gem” up as a reason for not relocating the students of Loretto Abbey H.S. while remediation previously identified as “urgent” and “critical” by Board officials would be conducted on the premises.

They are playing with fire. Everyone else is an alarmist, a Cassandra, says another of her “newbie” colleagues. Yet a third one rejects what he perceives to be the “threatening” nature of Union o—cials who urge caution and due diligence when contemplating remediation involving use or removal of toxic carcinogens like asbestos.

Several third-party reports to Board suggest that the product is everywhere in Loretto Abbey. Only one Trustee, Daniel Di Giorgio seems to have even read the latest Report to Board by the officials. He asked several logistically poignant questions too uncomfortable for the Director – he’ll be leaving at the end of June - to answer.

His designated “expert” had to admit two significant points: (1) a true estimate of the actual costs associated with exercising the no relocation option would have to await the assessment of experts in replacement of boilers and HVAC systems later on in April; (2) once work has been commenced and the building were to become an untenable environment for faculty support staff and students, there is no back up plan.

The urgency and critical nature of the remediation, according to those same officials buttressed by at least three professionally conducted reports dating as far back as 2011 when the TCDSB acquired the premises for $25.480 million on an “as is basis”, was created by the presence of asbestos.

Replacement of a heating and ventilation system or the removal of mould (dangerous and pervasive) are relatively minor in comparison, but once work has begun in that regard the peril of disturbing the latent asbestos threat expands exponentially.

Scientific evidence presented and accepted in European and North American Courts, contemplating lawsuits against some of the world’s most technologically advanced manufacturers and distributors of asbestos products says unequivocally that slamming a door shut or opening a window to ventilate a room is su—cient to release asbestos particles into the air.

Board officials, having outlined some items of concern, then recommended something completely inconsistent with the principle of good management and functionality in a Board. Staff essentially shrugged its shoulders and left it up to Trustees to assume the burden.

In short, the place is neither a healthy nor a safe environment. But it’s magical, assures trustee Li Preti, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, offered OECTA representative Gillian Vivona, the Staff Report did not point to any Health and Safety studies suggesting that remediation could take place with students and staff in the building.

Had they considered the principle of Law that requires everyone in a custodial/fiduciary position that it is “better to be safe than sorry”, she wondered? What questions had been asked that would provide assurance to academic and support staff in the building that they and students had nothing to fear by staying on site during remediation, she added. Her colleague, Lina Naccarato, from the CUPE local 1328 expressed even more direct concern. Combined, close to 90% of both sectors of educational workers preferred relocation.

Trustees decided to engage in “shooting the messenger” tactics. As to the substance of the matter, their response is best paraphrased as follows: if and when a danger emerges, we will deal with it then; for now, we put our trust in our officials. Those would be the same ones who last month advocated for relocation – “urgent and critical” were their words.

It may no longer matter to Director Rory McGuckin – he’s effectively gone – but if Minister Lecce is looking to rectify problems in educational administration (after the teacher strikes are over and done), he need look no further than the mismanagement and dysfunctionality at the TCDSB.


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