Gwynneville Public School students and teachers have been forced to endure mould on walls and carpets, loose electrical wires and leaking light fittings as the Department of Education stalls on providing essential maintenance to school buildings.
The matter has reached the floor of State Parliament where Wollongong MP Noreen Hay accused the department of ignoring safety issues at the school.
Ms Hay said she had been contacted by the school’s P&C after they were unable to get help from the department for the repairs.
‘‘They, like I, could see there was an accident there waiting to happen,’’ she said.
Ms Hay toured the school with members of the P&C earlier this month and said it was unacceptable students and staff had to learn and work in such conditions.
She told Parliament the school’s sick bay could not be used by ill students because the mould was so bad, and that the interactive whiteboard and television in the library were unable to be used for ‘‘fear of electrocution’’ due to the damp.
She said the school had thrown out thousands of dollars worth of library books because of mould.
Other problems, such as being left without a canteen after an upgrade was postponed, an overgrown playground, cracks in walls, and doors and windows that did not lock properly, were also still to be addressed.
‘‘There is no canteen there for the children and there are exposed wires and, in some classrooms, parts of the ceiling are coming in. They’ve been trying to get these things fixed for a long time and the department hasn’t fixed them,’’ Ms Hay said.
‘‘These are everyday repairs that need doing through the Department of Education and clearly they are not only not being done, but haven’t been done for a long time.’’
Ms Hay commended the school community for trying to get the issues fixed. She said she had written to Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli, urging him to make repairs a priority and had asked him to visit the school with her to see the problems firsthand.
Gwynneville Public School principal Patricia Payne declined to comment yesterday, as did the school’s P&C.
A spokesman for the Department of Education and Communities acknowledged yesterday that the school would ‘‘benefit from an upgrade of its facilities’’.
He told the Mercury that an officer from the ‘‘local asset management unit’’ would visit the school today.
He said work to maintain existing facilities at the school was ongoing, including a $48,000 upgrade to the junior and senior toilets and other minor maintenance.
‘‘As part of 2012-13 Extra Minor Maintenance funding, Gwynneville Public School was allocated $5186 to spend on maintenance works identified as a priority by the school principal.’’
Further facility upgrades at the school had been nominated as part of a future Major Capital Works Program and would be assessed against competing projects at all other NSW government schools, he said.
Mould affects asthma sufferers
Mould can exacerbate conditions such as hay fever and asthma, said Shell Cove Family Health consultant GP Dr Russell Pearson, consultant GP at Shell Cove Family Health.
While mould and mildew pose no immediately serious threat to healthy people, Dr Pearson said asthma sufferers could find their symptoms worsen after prolonged exposure to mouldy rooms.
National Asthma Council Australia says about one in nine children suffer from asthma.
‘‘If you have accommodation that is making your asthma worse because the rooms are damp and mouldy, that would have a cumulative effect,’’ Dr Pearson said.
People with a compromised immune system, such as cancer patients, can contract opportunistic infections from mould, and those allergic to it can experience itching, rashes and hives, but Dr Pearson said this made up a small proportion of the population.
‘‘The vast majority of people would have no ill effects to exposure,’’ he said.