Cumnock school’s class action

The parents of Cumnock Public School students are determined their children will not spend one more winter in “toxic” classrooms.

Cumnock Concerned Citizens (CCC), a group consisting largely of parents of children at the school, has raised $3500 towards the $11,500 needed to replace four of the eight unflued gas heaters.

Unflued gas heaters in areas of the state identified as being especially cold, including Orange, have already been replaced by the state government.

However, the government announced last month it would not be replacing heaters in any more schools until they broke down, prompting CCC into action.

Parent and CCC member Pip Job said the group was motivated by concerns about asthma and other health issues they believe are caused by the heaters.

Findings by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in 2004 showed increased rates of coughs, cold and asthma symptoms among children exposed to unflued gas heaters.

“Ultimately it’s my kids and their health. It’s people who volunteer at the school and it’s the staff. We’ve lodged quotations and received approval from the department to replace them with a flued heater,” Mrs Job said.

The group has received more than $1000 in donations and raised $2500 by selling 28 donated sheep at the Forbes Saleyards this week.

It appears the group will have to raise the entire amount needed by itself, unless an agreement can be reached to use some of the school’s funds.

State member for Orange Andrew Gee said the most recent data available from May 2011 showed that Cumnock Public School had $82,000 in its bank account.

“I’ve indicated to the group in the first instance they need to be talking to the school about the school’s funding priorities. My understanding is those funds could be used. The parents have come back and said the school might want to spend that money for other projects,” he said.

Mr Gee said he had spoken to Western Region school education director Paul Stirling about the negotiations.

“He has indicated that he will talk to the school’s principal about the availability of the school to pay for some of this itself. If the parents who support the school feel so strongly about it I would have thought something could be done to find some money for them,” he said.

Mr Gee ruled out direct government funding for the project, saying it was government policy that no more heaters would be replaced until they could no longer be serviced.

Mrs Job described that policy as “highly negligent”.

“If a school says it wants them replaced, there should be provisions to do so,” she said.

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