Primrose school well problems come to a head

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As students returned to the classroom this month, Primrose Elementary School in Mulmur has been without well water.

The school reverted to remote learning on Sept. 8 when staff was forced to close the school due to water concerns and a lack of available portable toilets.

“Earlier this afternoon, we discovered low water pressure in the school and our inability to flush toilets. We have maintenance crews arriving in the morning to investigate the problem and look to a long-term solution to this issue,” wrote school principal Marianne Millsap in a letter to parents and guardians dated Sept. 7.

The school re-opened on Sept. 9, making porta-potties and drinking water available to students and staff.

The subject was a topic of conversation at the all-candidates meeting in Mulmur on Sept. 17, when school council co-chair Karen Kennedy made candidates aware of the problem.

Kennedy appeared at the meeting with a group of concerned parents who are asking the Upper Grand School Board and the Ministry of Education for a long-term solution to ongoing water supply issues at the school.

The Echo’s request for an interview with the principal went unanswered but parents say there have been problems with the school’s well as far back as 2017, and likely much longer. Kennedy, who has two children at the school, told The Echo that the school is at about 170 per cent capacity, taking into account staff, which is straining an already problematic well. “We also want to reassure families and provide an update on the short- term and long-term steps being taken to resolve the situation and avoid further disruptions,” states the principal’s letter. “Water was restored on Thursday, however additional work will be required to fully rectify this issue. In the short term, portable toilets and water stations will remain on site and drinking water will continue to be delivered to the school. For a longer term solution, board staff are looking into measures to either repair or replace the well and improve water pressure. If a longer term, permanent solution requires extended timelines, the school board will implement an alternative or supplemental water supply source in the interim.”

As of Tuesday, a water tanker truck is pumping water into the school’s plumbing system to provide running water and flush toilets. On Monday, the porta-potties were replaced with trailer toilets. However, parents are reporting that their children are avoiding the use of the portable toilets.

“They need a new well. They do not have a timeline,” said Kennedy. She said a big problem with the communications from the school board is the lack of transparency. “We knew there was no running water, yet the school board, in their communications did not tell parents there was no running water,” said Kennedy. “All of this is a very knee- jerk response. They said they would fix this problem over the summer and they didn’t. Somebody at the board gave the green light for that school to open.”

She said they are throwing money at temporary solutions while neglecting the core problem.

Parents are writing a letter to the Ministry and lobbying the school board to establish timelines for a permanent solution.

“Digging a new well is expensive but I can’t understand why it would take months,” said Kennedy. “They dropped the ball. They put our kids in this situation, and it’s not fair.”

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