Build new school, Virginia Park parents plead

Parents of children who attend an elementary school in St. John's vented frustrations about aging sections of the building Monday night.

Parents of children who attend an elementary school in the east end of St. John's vented frustrations about aging sections of the building at a meeting Monday night.

A 2006 consultant's report found numerous deficiencies inside Virginia Park Elementary School in St. John's. ((CBC))

A consultant's report recently found parts of Virginia Park Elementary Schoolare so dilapidated and unsafe, they "wouldn't meet standards in the developed world."

Key among the problems are an obsolete electrical system,poor air quality, substandard plumbing and no sprinklers in some areas.

"When I send my child here, I do worry," said Brenda Murphy, whose two children have attended the school.

While part of the school is brand new, Murphy said she is anxious about other areas, including temporary buildings that are more than 30 years old.

"All we want is to add on to that new part, demolish the bad stuff, and start new," Murphy told CBC News.

Parents have been campaigning for a new school, but say they have had no luck in gettinggovernment's ear.

School council member Jens Hosel said parents want to know how the province plans to deal with problems at Virginia Park Elementary. ((CBC))

Jens Hosel, a member of the school council, said that less than two hours before Monday night's meeting, he found out that the provincial Education Department is following a set of recommendations different from those in the consultant's report that the school council received last fall.

"We became aware tonight that there was a letter of… clarification that was supplement to the consultant's report that we as a council had never received," he said.

Hosel, a father of two students at the school, said the school council wants to know what the government is going to do to keep students safe. He said he is particularly concerned about how the school would be evacuated in case of a fire.

Education Minister Joan Burke said Tuesday that while immediate concerns have been dealt with, larger issues — such as replacing the older sections of the school — will take more time.

"The next time that this particular project will be reviewed will be in our next budgeting cycle, which will lead into our next budget in March or April of next year," Burke told CBC News.

"It remains a priority, but I can't prejudge the budget process at this point in time."

Some parents may already have ideas of their own. A few of the parents who spoke at the meeting suggested keeping their children out of school until action is taken.

About 220 children attend the school, which offers classes from kindergarten to Grade 6.