Newcastle East Public School staff, students and cleaners have been found to have been potentially exposed to hazardous friable asbestos, more than two years after Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp raised the issue of asbestos in the school with the Education Minister.
Today parents were notified that the substance had been detected in a historic building, which saw a total decontamination undertaken and school property removed, including library books.
In September 2017 Mr Crakanthorp raised concerns with the then-Education Minister Rob Stokes about the replacement of a deteriorating roof at the school due the presence of bonded asbestos. He was advised two months later that remediation work would be done in conjunction with capital works at the school.
In September 2019 Mr Crakanthorp asked current Education Minister Sarah Mitchell whether friable asbestos was present in any Newcastle electorate schools, which included specifically asking about Newcastle East Public School.
The answer was ‘no’.
Mr Crakanthorp said that to have friable asbestos found less than six months later demonstrates a severe lack of due diligence.
“This building has a long history of asbestos contamination, in fact, that is the exact reason works were being undertaken at the school,” he said.
“You would think testing these rooms to make sure they were safe for staff and students would have been a top priority. The fact they weren’t isn’t just disgraceful, it is sheer negligence and the Minister needs to explain how this was allowed to occur.
“It’s very disappointing that not only did the Minister not speak to the local member about this very serious issue, she failed to notify parents prior to the return to school today.
“We need to know how many kids have been exposed and what supports are available to staff and parents now that they are having to deal with this news.
“The Education Minister needs to immediately come to Newcastle to face these parents, provide an assurance that the school is safe and deliver a full explanation.”
Mr Crakanthorp has sought an urgent briefing from the Minister.