Students at a school in Toronto are not attending class in protest of the smell coming from the roof. Parents say the roof work at Old Orchard Public School is making their children sick.

The equipment is still at the school, located just off Ossington Avenue, south of Bloor Street, after students and parents staged a protest. Contractors, who started repairs last week, have since stopped work.

A protest over school roofing

Parents and children staged a protest over the roof work at Old Orchard Public School. Many more schools need roof work this year. (CBC)

"Thick, black smoke, heavy, heavy fumes, gusts of it coming off the roof and people moving trying to find fresh air," describes Alison Liphardt, a parent of a student at the school.

"My daughter was describing a kid who felt he couldn't breathe. A lot of kids are complaining of headaches and vomiting."

After less than a week of roof repairs, parents kept their children out of school and protested. Of about 300 students, about 70 were not in class.

"It's not as if it's a one-day thing, and we're all hysterical about it. It's a 10-day project," says parent Heidi Pyper.

Toronto Public Health says there isn't a health risk, though asphalt fumes might cause throat irritation and headaches. These are considered short-term symptoms that should pass.

The contractors stopped working today so that the board can make new plans.

"We are expediting the work as much as possible: putting in the exhaust fans today, double shifting next weekend. We will work as hard and fast as possible to make it comfortable," says Shari Schwartz-Maltz of the Toronto District School Board. 

The board says the roof at Old Orchard wouldn't last another winter. And this is one of hundreds of schools that will be repaired.

"Unfortunately, you can't do everything in the summer. You need light in order to do the roof safely, so there's nothing much you can do after hours and on the weekend," says Schwartz-Maltz.

As word got out that the work stopped, some parents brought their kids back to school. But tomorrow, work is expected to resume with those extra measures in place.