Asbestos drives students from primary school Pork in Ter Apel to the ‘Big School’

The primary school Pork in Ter Apel is forced to close. However, the students and teachers do not have to sit at home. Other schools accommodate them.

On this Thursday morning, children who are still very young and frail are walking around in the corridors and on the square of the Regional School Community (RSG), the secondary school in Ter Apel. They are students from Pork primary school who do not really belong here yet, but do feel at home here.

The Leaning Tower Of Pisa

The Pork collaborative primary school is located elsewhere in the village, has 160 students and has been locked for weeks. “Since the May holiday,” says director Jeannette Sinot. “A new ventilation system would be installed during that holiday. I was in Italy, literally standing under the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I got the call. During the work they had found asbestos in the ceiling of the classrooms on the ground floor. Closed off by that ceiling it couldn’t hurt, now it had to be removed and we couldn’t use the school for the time being. We weren’t even allowed in.”

How to proceed with the lessons and where to give them? Those were questions Sinot and her colleagues faced. “We have contacted other primary schools in the village, which fall under the same Primenius school group, and, on the recommendation of the municipality of Westerwolde, also with the RSG. And everywhere we were made very welcome, space was made available, there was good neighborliness.”

Concierge is now also a driver

As a result, Pork’s youngest pupils attend the Heilige Gerardusschool in the neighboring village of Barnflair every day, the pre-school and after-school care have been given a place in the Bonifatiusschool and the older pupils, aged 8 to 12, in the RSG get their lessons. “We use a van that takes students to the different schools, if parents want it,” says the director. Our concierge is one of the drivers.

Sinot tells her story in the RSG where she checks this morning if everything is going well. The latter certainly applies to Stijn Bentlage. He is almost 10 years old, a pupil of group 6 and is currently crossing the threshold of the ‘Big School’ every day. ,,I go here by bike and I really like it here”, he says. So nice that he would prefer to stay here.

His parents Bert and Annemarie, also present this morning, listen to that wish with a smile. But also know the other sound. Their younger son Ruben, who is taught at the Gerardus School, appreciates the warm welcome there, but longs to return to Pork.

Bell sounds at other times

The last weeks before the summer holidays are a great adventure for the children, and they are the same for the teachers. Master Geert Kost is teaching this morning in one of the RSG classrooms and regularly sees secondary school students walking by. ,,The lesson times are different, the bell rings at different times”, says Master Geert. ,,But that is not a problem, we stick to our familiar times. Things are going well here.” Team leader Daniël Venema likes to hear that. ,,We have rooms available because our final exam candidates are already at home, we are happy to offer this help.”

Jeannette Sinot’s program (,,My permanent workplace now? I commute back and forth between the 3 schools”) also includes a visit to the closed Pork this morning. She can enter and shows the empty classrooms with the broken ceilings. “Asbestos was found in the ceiling here. We were surprised, a report seemed to indicate that there was no asbestos present. Scriptures and other paper material that was here has been destroyed. In kindergarten also craft material. After all, some asbestos may have ended up on all of this during the breaking of the ceilings. We can now teach because we have printed lesson books online and also received material from the other schools.”

Return after the summer holidays

The director informed the parents on Thursday that a return to the Pork is not possible before the summer holidays. “Our school has been declared asbestos-free again, but we still have so much to clean up here and to redecorate the place. That costs a lot of time. After the summer holidays, we can go here again. Fortunately, we can still appeal to the noabership in the coming weeks.

‘Not a day of lessons missed, worth a compliment’

Alderman Wietze Potze of the municipality of Westerwolde is pleased with the solidarity in Ter Apel. ,,The children of Pork have not missed a day of lessons. When a school closes, it is the responsibility of the municipality to provide housing. That is why we contacted the RSG and pointed this out to Pork.” Potze was also surprised that asbestos was found. “The report, commissioned by the school group in question, did not provide 100 percent certainty, but made it clear that there was probably no asbestos present.”