21 June 2022

Parts of Dickson College off limits after possum poo, mould, water discovered

| Lottie Twyford
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Worksafe Act prohibition notice

WorkSafe ACT issued the prohibition notice last Friday. Photo: Reddit.

Students and teachers have been banned from accessing some areas of Dickson College after mould, possum poo and water damage were found.

The Territory’s workplace safety regulator issued a prohibition notice to the school last Friday (17 June) after inspectors responded to complaints about hygiene.

In a statement, WorkSafe ACT confirmed the notice had been issued but would not comment further, as is their usual practice.

Staff and students are now barred from entering both the SOSE/Humanities Block and the Ant Hill Theatre until the areas have been re-inspected and certified as safe.

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Inspectors initially visited the college on Wednesday last week (15 June) and found possum faeces and urine on the floor and in light fittings in the school’s theatre.

Black mould was found on suspended ceiling tiles in the humanities corridor and in the theatre’s fire hose reel cabinet.

Inspectors also found extensive water damage on suspended ceiling tiles throughout the school.

The inspectors’ report said they had formed a “reasonable belief that there is a serious risk to the safety of workers and others emanating from the immediate and imminent hazard of respirable airborne contaminants”.

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A spokesperson for the ACT Education Directorate said an environmental assessor “was immediately engaged to sample and assess the two impacted areas – level 1 of the Humanities Block D and Anthill Theatre” after the Directorate received the prohibition notice from WorkSafe.

Cleaning began at the weekend and will continue outside of school hours.

“Our priority is always the health and safety of our students, staff and community and appropriate measures have been put in place across the school to manage this temporary disruption,” the spokesperson said.

“No students or staff will be allowed to enter these identified areas until advised that they are safe.”

Minister for education Yvette Berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said issues relating to mould would continue to arise given all the wet weather recently. Photo: ACT Government.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry confirmed today (21 June) she had only become aware of issues relating to mould at the school last Friday night.

Ms Berry attributed the mould to the extremely wet and cool weather the Territory had been experiencing recently and said it was a problem many organisations would need to manage, not just schools.

She said the Directorate had been working on issues relating to ventilation at the school for some time, but the full scope of the problem was yet to be understood.

The Education Minister further noted the ACT Government had made a $15 million election pledge to the Education Directorate to address the removal of hazardous materials, including mould, on top of the usual fund for repair and maintenance.

Ms Berry welcomed the “culture of reporting” which allowed teachers to feel comfortable enough to come forward and report issues.

“I’m more concerned if the report if those reports aren’t made and that there are issues that exist in our schools that we don’t know about,” she said.

Calwell High School

Year 7 and 8 students at Calwell High School were barred from attending school in term one after WorkSafe ACT found an “untenable”, violent and unsafe situation. Photo: Calwell High School.

The school is the second ACT public school to be issued with a prohibition notice by WorkSafe ACT this year.

In March, students at Calwell High School were barred from attending campus after inspectors found issues of bullying and violence were rife and staff shortages were chronic.

Ultimately, Year 7 and 8 students spent four full weeks learning remotely as work got underway between the Education Directorate and the regulator to make the school safe.

Earlier this year, the ACT’s Education Directorate confirmed WorkSafe ACT had been called to five public schools in Term One.

In line with the watchdog’s usual operations, it was unable to comment on whether any of these visits had led to ongoing investigations, whether notices of any kind were issued, or even if it had been called in specifically or not.

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Stephen Saunders7:48 am 22 Jun 22

One of our kids spurned the opulence of Radford for the democratic Lyneham-Dickson pathway. They had fun, got just as good a tertiary score, though you had to overlook the run-down facilities and broken clocks. But now – mould and manure – it’s just too much!

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