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school air cash

Bad air money soon, says hopeful school board Howe Sound solution is provincial pilot By Chris Woodall The money to replace dank, mouldy carpets of four Howe Sound district elementary schools may soon be here, after a second visit by two education ministry people last week, says Rick Hume, school board operations manager. Indeed, the cheque may have been signed sealed and put in the mail by Wednesday afternoon this week. Hume was to meet ministry officials in Vancouver, Wednesday, June 24, and would have known by the afternoon if emergency money would be released. "I haven't seen any money yet," Hume said during a Pique Newsmagazine interview, Monday, June 22. "But I felt good about this visit: they said yes we do have a problem here." The "problem" is at Signal Hill, Mamquam, Squamish, and Stawamus elementary schools. Students and school staff have long suffered from bad air caused by inferior circulation and general dampness. An initial visit June 2 by air quality consultants hired by the education ministry signalled an impending decision on a solution. The emergency money would cover the cost to replace carpets with vinyl flooring, Hume says, but big ticket items such as new boilers and the electrical upgrades needed to power them will have to wait for future capital funding. Part of that project will be to pour concrete "floors" under school crawl spaces to keep out rain and snowmelt runoff. Hume and school board secretary-treasurer Nancy Edwards accompanied the ministry officials on a two-day tour of the four schools. The four met with local Parents Advisory Committees and school principals. "Everything was right up front," Hume says of the local meetings. "They (PAC and the principal) didn't expect the world, but felt carpet cleanup would be nice." The travelling group then sat down to hash over the school board's findings and tests. "Nancy and Rick have done a ton of work to get this done," says school board superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick. Plans to fix the bad air in Howe Sound schools will become a pilot for similar situations in the province's other 58 school districts, Hume says. Previous government attempts to fix schools' problems have been little more than an exercise in tossing money for nothing, Hume says. "We'll be the model. There are a lot of 40-year-old schools left in the province, so the ministry is working with us to ensure it's done correctly the first time," Hume says. "The ministry has a lot of pressure from all of the school districts, so it's tough for them (to pick and choose where to spend money)," Hume says. "We have to put that into perspective."