Old gas heaters prompt concerns for preschool children’s safety atat Grace Park Preschool, Greensborough

A MELBOURNE kindergarten has installed gas detectors in a classroom, fearing old heaters could put students at risk.

Staff at Grace Park Preschool, Greensborough, installed carbon monoxide detectors in July after staff were reportedly told by Banyule City Council workers classroom heaters would not be replaced.

The devices activate an alarm if gas is detected, allowing teachers to evacuate the room.

Preschool committee president Jamile Petridis said the heaters had stopped functioning properly and temperatures often dipped below 10C in the classroom. The heaters were checked in July and council staff reportedly told Ms Petridis the centre was one of three schools needing an upgrade.

They were told the successful facility would be notified in September.

Staff voted to install the detectors as a precaution following the visit but there was no evidence to suggest the heaters were leaking. “We have over 20 children in the classroom and I don’t want to see one die because of a lack of urgency from the council,” Ms Petridis said

“They say that heaters are a silent killer. We don’t want any of the kids to pass out or, God forbid, something worse.

“I cannot express how freezing it has been in there, the staff are rugged up and the children’s hands are freezing cold. We are a not-for-profit organisation and the maintenance of the building is up to the council.

“We are not asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are just asking for a proper heater.”

When contacted by the Herald Sun, Banyule City Council Mayor Wayne Phillips said new heating would be installed at the preschool in several weeks.

“All heaters are inspected and serviced annually at the start of winter by a registered plumber. The most recent report confirms the heating currently installed is both safe and functioning correctly.

“Council received a request in May to improve heating at the preschool. Council officers assessed requirements in July and new heaters will be installed in the coming weeks.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education Colin Brooks hit out at the council, saying the heating should have been fixed immediately. “I am shocked and horrified that a kindergarten should have to install carbon monoxide alarms to protect their children,” he said.

“Banyule has just hit ratepayers with the biggest rate rise in the state. They should have the funds to fix this.” Banyule Council’s 2013-14 draft budget indicated a 7.95 per cent rate rise to reduce debt.”