Mould in portable highlights crowding problems at Lambeth Public School

Parents say the discovery of mould in a portable classroom at Lambeth Public School has highlighted a pressing overcapacity problem as the school struggles to keep pace with the area's rapid growth.

Parent says school is already 'busting at the seams' with rapid growth in the area

Krista Perdikakis's son and the rest of his Grade 5 class will spend the duration of the school year in the library after mould was discovered in the attic of the portable his class was using. Perdikakis said the situation compounds crowding problems at Lambeth Public School. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Parents say the discovery of mould in a portable classroom at Lambeth Public School has highlighted a pressing overcapacity problem as the school struggles to keep pace with the area's rapid growth. 

"It's busting at the seams," said Krista Perdikakis, a parent of three students at the school. "These portables are old and they are run down and to me, it's not a nice way for our children to be educated and be part of the school community." 

On Tuesday the school's principal sent a note home to parents, advising them that during a routine inspection, mould was found in the attic of one of eight portables at the school. 

The note says the mould was not found in the classroom space and that "immediate action was taken to eliminate any potential exposure to students by relocating the class to another learning space within the school.

"We are confident that our students will continue to thrive in this new learning space for the duration of this school year," the note says. 

Perdikakis's son and the rest of his Grade 5 class will now spend the last week of the school year working in the library. 

"My initial reaction was: 'Is everybody going to be safe?'" said Perdikakis. "What's the health implications of this?"

Mould, particularly prolonged exposure to it, can cause serious respiratory problems

A school board spokesperson told CBC News that testing of air in the classroom indicates that staff and students were not at risk.

But Perdikakis says the mould problem points to a wider issue of crowing at a school. There are currently 741 enrolled students, numbers the school board says puts Lambeth Public at about 118 per cent capacity. 

The growth isn't slowing down; a ninth portable is expected to arrive at the school by fall. 

Rapid growth has come to southwest London in recent years as farm fields give way to large subdivisions of single-family homes. The infill has put pressure on infrastructure, roads and schools. 

Lambeth Public School has eight portables, and will be adding another in the fall. At 741 students, the school is currently operating at 118 per cent capacity. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Perdikakis said some students don't get their full allotment of gym time. Also, with the addition of each new portable, the school's playground shrinks to the point where it's now "elbow-to-elbow and "shoulder-to-shoulder" at recess.

But numbers supplied by the TVDSB show it's not the worst school in the board for overcrowding. 

For example, about half of Masonville Public School's 600 students are in more than a dozen portables with the school at 165 per cent capacity. However in March, the province announced  $6 million toward a planned $8.4 million renovation of the school. 

Eagle Heights on Oxford Street is operating at 144 per cent of its capacity, while Sir Isaac Brock school is at 150 per cent capacity (see list below).

The TVDSB managed to pass its budget last week after facing a $4.6 million deficit. 

Perdikakis hopes the mould incident will prompt the province to invest more in schools in the area. 

"I'm an optimist so I always think that things will get better and sometimes they have to get worse," she said. "Hopefully this is the worst point that we'll experience and we'll start seeing some new schools popping up in the area and my son will get some new breathing room in the playground." 

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Utilization Rate at TVDSB schools

The school board uses the term "utilization rate" to gauge whether or not a particular school is operating at, below or above its capacity. 

Below is a list of the TVDSB schools with the top-five highest utilization rate, which is expressed as a percentage. 

  1. 182 per cent: Roch Carrier French Immersion (Woodstock).
  2. 165 per cent: Masonville (London).
  3. 145 per cent: Eagle Heights  (London).
  4. 148 per cent: Springbank (Woodstock).
  5. 142 per cent: A. J. Baker  (Kintore).

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.


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