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Collingwood elementary school reopens after mould is found in 15 classrooms

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St. Mary's School in Collingwood unlocked its doors to welcome students on Tuesday following the discovery of mould in multiple classrooms over the summer, necessitating an extended closure at the start of the school year.

In the interim, students and faculty were temporarily relocated to a nearby high school and church, ensuring that learning remained in-person.

In late August, the school board sent a letter to parents noting no one would be allowed inside while remediation work was completed.

According to the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, an environmental engineering firm first visited the school in January to investigate four classrooms and collect samples, which it said were returned with acceptable levels, but by July, the company was brought back in after staff raised concerns.

Testing then revealed mould in 15 classrooms.

"My priority is always the safety of the children, and every single location in the school had an air quality test. In fact, in 40 different locations in the school, we were given the all-clear," said St. Mary's Principal Charlotte Traverse.

While mom Ashley Amis said her two children are happy to be back on familiar ground, she's frustrated the board didn't deal with the mould during the summer.

"I would be remiss not to say it was mismanaged or it felt mismanaged from the board level. And even though we've had communication with the board, both 1-on-1 and in community forums, there were a number of ways that this could've been handled better," Amis said.

"I certainly feel for the parents; it was having to make that scramble for daycare and having to make arrangements. I'm a mom. I get that. I understand that's really hard," Traverse said.

Still, Amis credits the school staff for how they managed the situation.

"We're fortunate that the teachers and the administration in the school itself have been great through this, and if it wasn't for them, this could've been a lot worse," she added.

The school's interior remains a work in progress due to several items, like shelving, having to be removed for health and safety work to be completed, so ongoing refurbishments are slated to begin over the winter break and on weekends until August.

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