Mould and CIRS

‘They know the rooms are bad’: Top Sydney school made a student sick

‘They know the rooms are bad’: Top Sydney school made a student sick 749 474 Radic 8

When Sebastian* started high school at one of NSW’s top selective schools, he had no idea the inner-Sydney campus would make him physically sick.

Now 14, he started year 7 at Fort Street High School in Petersham in 2017, but his mother Nicole Melanson said he soon fell ill.

“He was sick for the entire winter,” she said. “He’d come home from school at 3-something and go to bed.”

After Sebastian had gone through two terms of headaches, nausea and hives, and many days absent, Ms Melanson said she went to the school to see what the problem was herself.

She was shocked to discover the state of the school buildings, and says more parents need to be made aware of the issue.

“The school is mouldy, that’s what we have to work with,” she said.

Ms Melanson said the school had done “everything they can” to support Sebastian, including moving a number of his classes to a building that is not affected by mould and enrolling him in distance education for science.

However, she said the lack of communication about how the Department of Education was fixing the problem concerned her, and Sebastian still had to regularly skip classes or assemblies if they were moved to buildings with mould.

“We provided reports, they did testing, but we never heard anything from anybody,” she said.

“There will be lots of people sitting in these classrooms having headaches, respiratory issues and not knowing what the problem is.

“A lot of his teachers had no idea, they didn’t know what the problem was and he would say it’s because of the mould. It really was not communicated at all.”

Sebastian said he was not worried about himself, as he will be going to a different school interstate for year 9, but he was worried about his former classmates.

“I feel frustrated the school is putting children in these rooms they know are bad,” Sebastian said.

In a statement, a Department of Education spokeswoman said the department was aware mould had been reported at Fort Street High School and had done work to fix the problem.

“An independent hygienist was engaged in late October this year to investigate and determine the presence and levels of mould at the school,” the spokeswoman said.

“School Infrastructure NSW has since undertaken all remediation work recommended by the hygienist. A clearance certificate was issued on Friday, December 14, stating that mould remediation had been conducted to a satisfactory standard and that the classrooms are suitable for normal occupation.

“The health and safety of students and staff is our highest priority and the Department will continue to undertake measures to ensure the school buildings remain safe for the use of students and staff.”

Ms Melanson said the Department of Education told her they had replaced carpet and repainted damaged areas, but she said those fixes were not enough.

“We’re kind of done with the whole thing, there are other kids in there who probably don’t know that’s their problem,” she said.

“The issue is not with the school, for them it’s funding. If they don’t have money they can’t do anything.”

*Sebastian’s surname has been withheld by request.



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