As many teachers will tell you, disruptive noises can be nothing more than a sign of an active and exuberant group of young students. But what happens when deafening sounds are heard outside the school gates and punctuate the day with the excruciating sound of metal being ground and piles being driven, making it impossible to conduct the school day with any semblance of normality?
As The National reported, this appears to the daily reality at one of Repton Abu Dhabi's two Reem Island school campuses. Construction of the new Central Park residential and commercial tower has begun at a site next door to the campus, bringing with it a cacophony of unwelcome noise. The new development will take three years to complete, a timescale that will probably feel like a lifetime if video footage shared with this newspaper is anything to go by. The clips reveal a daily diet of drilling, piling, hammering and heavy noise pollution. One parent described the construction sounds as akin to an "earthquake". Another questioned what impact the "shaking and drilling" would have on the long-term health of the school buildings.
As it stands, the situation appears to serve everyone and no one: both the school and the nearby construction site are operating within their rights on their allotted sites. For its part, the construction company responsible for the Central Park tower has apologised for the noise the children have been subjected to but, in the absence of night works permit, the noise will continue during the day. And, if work is switched to night time, it may become an equal irritant to local residents. For its part, the school is in dialogue with parents, the construction company and the regulators and has moved pupils out of the most noise polluted areas of the facility.
What is an appropriate formula to ease the situation?
The regulatory authorities should be encouraged to make regular site visits and to continue to monitor child and site safety. The school should continue its outreach work and could consider the option of further relocation of pupils and staff to its other campus. The construction company should also continue its dialogue with the school and the authorities to work out a compromise that serves both commercial and educational interests. The current situation has angered many and, as one parent said, “it would be foolish not to do anything”. A sensible path forward needs to be mapped out.