Parents say transformer shouldn’t be on playground

Bonnie Belec
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The transformer site

The field at Bishop Feild School just got a little smaller. After years of community fundraising, seeding, fertilizing and nurturing the green space outside the downtown St. John’s school, parents are afraid it was all for naught since the Eastern School District Board has decided to install a transformer, needed for an electrical upgrade for the school, in the field.

While the transformer is not yet in place, there has been some work done and the area where it will be placed is fenced and wrapped in orange plastic mesh. It’s about

16 feet by 16 feet and six-feet high.

“The perimeter of the field has been measured by the school gym teacher, and it just meets the distance required to train for the popular track meets. This has now been lost by the ill-advised placement of this transformer,” parent and resident Emily Sopkowe told The Telegram Friday.

She also wrote her concerns in a letter to the editor.

“I also feel a fence around this transformer, if that is what it requires to make it safe, is in itself a danger. Give a kid a fence, they will climb it. This green space was the result of successful school-parent fundraising and co-operation in the past, when it was converted from a gravel area to a grassy field, with proper drainage,” Sopkowe stated in her letter.

Melanie Del Rizzo, the parent representative and chairwoman of the school’s council, said children involved in track and field will now have to train in Bannerman Park because of the obstruction.

“There are parents in the school who had older children who went through the school who fundraised for that field and there was a lot of time and effort put into it by the people who live in the neighbourhood,” she said.

She said parents worked together to put in the proper drainage and everything required for the children to have a grassy field and to have that taken away doesn’t sit well with them.

“This is for an upgrade we didn’t ask for. So it’s all being done to us not with us or for us, but to us,” Del Rizzo said.

Jennifer Newhook, who is the mother of two children attending Bishop Feild, said she doesn’t believe the Eastern School Board had the best interest of the children in mind when they made the decision to put the transformer in the school’s playground.

“We were able to use that space for (track and field) to do their training and it seems ridiculous it would be taken from them,” she said.

“They can’t train on their own property for a sport that is to increase their health and physical well-being. I’d like to think the Eastern School Board would encourage this, but it seems like the health and physical well-being was the last thing on the list when they decided to place this,” said Newhook.

Del Rizzo and Newhook said the school recently upgraded the heating system by installing a new furnace and are concerned — given the age and size of the old building — electric heat may not be effective or efficient.

“I thought why are they doing this and why not spend the money on better equipment for the school than fixing a system that is working perfectly well. Why spend all this money when we are quite happy with the heating system,” said Del Rizzo.

“They certainly didn’t get the value of the furnace before they tear it out and replace it with baseboard heaters and I’m concerned it isn’t going to sufficiently heat the space we have and we can end up with mould growth,” added Newhook.

The principal of the school, Judith Gard Puddester, directed The Telegram to the Eastern School Board for comment.

Ken Morrissey, director of communications for the board, said the transformer is needed to address concerns with respect to the aged heating plant at the school.

He said they are converting the building from steam radiation heating to electric heating.

“Bishop Feild elementary is an older building which has issues related to its heating system and in order to address heating regulation, health and safety, and infrastructure concerns this project is being undertaken.”

Morrissey said transformers are used to provide power to schools and ground-based transformers are now used. He wouldn’t say if alternate sites were looked at. He said, “that is a matter we would like to discuss with the school council before providing comment on.”

He said a meeting with the school council has been planned for Monday.

Del Rizzo said she’s looking forward to it and hopes to reach some sort of resolution.

Organizations: Eastern School District Board, Bishop Feild School

Geographic location: Bannerman Park

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Recent comments

  • Marc Leclerc
    April 15, 2013 - 10:17

    Transformers can fail, and often when they fail they can explode violently. There have been recent incidents in the news of people being badly burned or killed because they were too near an exploding transformer. Imagine what would happen if the transformer failed violently during a school recess, when surrounded by dozens of school children. They would all be pelted with the burning oil spewing from the transformer. This is NOT a safe location for such an installation.

  • Molly
    April 14, 2013 - 10:16

    Bus the kids to another school, like is done in many areas,sell the land to a developer to build condominiums

  • Richie
    April 14, 2013 - 08:33

    Folks, Please be aware that there are loads of studies that support the fact that the rate of lukemia is higher in children who are exposed to electrical transmission equipment. Search the Internet. Such studies have been done in Canada as well, specifically Ontario. It seems the magnetic field around electical current is the culprit. Transformers are major sources of electrical fields, it's constant! The fields, especially in AC current, are constantly in motion. THIS is a serious concern. Please, read, research!

  • W Bagg
    April 13, 2013 - 11:06

    They know when Muskrat comes on-line they can't afford electric heat, so they switching to a furnace to save money.

  • Rose
    April 13, 2013 - 10:17

    I'm actually surprised by reading this article. My husband and I were walking around Bishop Field not too long ago and were commenting on the abysmal "playground". I stood and stared at it for a moment and actually wondered if it was indeed supposed to be a playground. Where are the swings, slides, climbing structures? Where is the soccer field? I don't know the enrolment numbers at Bishop Field, but I can't see how one child could enjoyably play on the school grounds, let alone hundreds! This is a school. It is not a Republic of Doyle set. A playground is important. I understand that upgraded electricity is also important, but if both cannot be provided, then perhaps Bishop Field shouldn't be an elementary school.

  • Todd
    April 13, 2013 - 08:16

    As a home owner in the neighbour hood I did not receive a notice from the city of this taking place as I should had? I also raised money to keep the grounds safe and reliable for my child and others to come to use for play time and leisure. Judy Puddester is a joke. Same olde stuff, just a different day and time? This land belongs to the's THEIR play space!

    • Ryan
      April 13, 2013 - 23:12

      Actually no the land doesn't belong to the children. The land is owned by the eastern school district.