MS TIERNEY — To ask the Minister for Higher Education and Skills (for the Minister for Education): In relation to the evacuation and closure of the Timboon P-12 School on 24 June 2013 due to asbestos-related issues:
(1) When was the government first made aware that there were possible asbestos issues at Timboon P-12.
(2) How long does the government expect the removal of the asbestos to take.
(3) What ongoing provisions and programs will the Napthine government put in place to ensure that this incident has the least impact on the staff and students at Timboon P-12.
(4) When will the government fulfil its promise to fund stage 1 of the school’s redevelopment, as was planned and signed off on under the previous state Labor government.
I am informed as follows:
On 17 June 2013, the principal of Timboon P-12 contacted the Department of Education and Early Childhood relating to a ball damaging eaves which contained asbestos.
The department sent a specialist occupational hygienist on Wednesday 19 June 2013 to repair the eaves board and mitigate any potential risks that may have emerged. This is a standard support service that the department provides to all Victorian government schools.
On 24 June 2013 WorkSafe issued a prohibition notice to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, following a site inspection at Timboon P-12 College. The prohibition notice related to the possible presence of friable asbestos, cracked lead-based paint and PCBs. The notice forced the immediate closure of the school, resulting in the relocation of the entire student population.
Immediate and appropriate action was taken in line with the department’s Asbestos Management Plan, which complies with asbestos safety legislation and regulations.
An environmental hygienist engaged by the department immediately attended the school to commence an independent assessment of all aspects of the WorkSafe notice. This included immediate air monitoring of the site, which confirmed that there was no airborne asbestos at the school and that students and staff were not at risk. Air monitoring continued at the school during the school holidays, and reported no airborne asbestos fibres.
The department, in close consultation with WorkSafe, developed a plan of remediation and removal works to enable the school to reopen. As a result, on Thursday 27 June 2013, WorkSafe lifted the prohibition notice, allowing students to return to school for their last day of term.
The necessary works identified in consultation with WorkSafe were completed over the school holidays so that students were not present while works were undertaken.
The department will continue to work closely with Timboon P-12 School on its future plans for capital improvements.
The Victorian government is committed to upgrading government primary and secondary schools across the state. The government must also responsibly balance and prioritise the needs of over 1500 government schools in Victoria.
I am aware that a number of schools, like Timboon P-12, were involved in the previous government’s school capital program. Many of those schools received planning money from the government prior to the 2010 state election, but never any money for the delivery of those building programs.
The government will continue to invest in quality school facilities to ensure students have access to the learning environment they deserve.