École Champlain in Moncton

Moncton elementary school, École Champlain, was evacuated on Thursday due to an odour. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

More than 500 students at Moncton's École Champlain were sent home on Thursday due to a strong smell of propane gas from a business in the nearby industrial park.

The school district says while there have been air quality problems in the past, this is the first time the school has been evacuated.

There was no wind to dissipate the vapours and the smell was in 10 classrooms, as well as other parts of the building, said spokesperson Luc Lajoie.

When the gas gets into one or two classrooms, they can move the students to the cafeteria, said Lajoie. But at some point, the school has to shut down.

"We cannot work with six or seven classes where there's smell. It's just impossible," he said.

The school, which was built 40 years ago, is located in the middle of an industrial park.

'Situation is getting worse'

Parents have been trying for the past decade to get the provincial government and the city to either move the nearby businesses or find a new location for the school.

"I think the situation is getting worse," said committee member Micheline Gleixner.

"I think the teachers and the students are being affected on a regular basis due to the smoke, the smells, the noise of neighbouring businesses."

Gleixner contends it's not only unhealthy, it's also unconstitutional.

"Our position is that the services that are providing the education to our children at Champlain School aren't of the same quality as the English schools," she said.

Gleixner says she's encouraged the provincial government is in talks with the businesses to see if they can be relocated.

But the committee, which has been given federal funding under a program to preserve linguistic rights, is also exploring its legal options, she said.