Parents at an Abu Dhabi school have raised concerns about the deafening noise and disruptive vibrations coming from a construction site immediately next to their children's campus.
Repton School's Rose Campus is located on Reem Island directly next to the new Central Park residential and commercial tower, which will take three years to build.
“I could feel the ground physically shaking underneath me while they were working,” said a mother of a boy in year 2.
“My concern is that part of our building is going to collapse or that something is going to fall, that’s what I’m afraid of.”
Construction of Central Park began in November, but parents say the heavy drilling and hammering only became a serious concern in recent weeks when piling and shoring work started, increasing the volume and frequency of the noise during school hours.
Videos shared with The National show scaffolding erected just a few feet from the school's wall as heavy machinery can be clearly heard pounding into the foundation.
In another, a pot filled with coffee shook violently on top of a table as heavy equipment rattled loudly. The video pans to a smartphone with a decibel meter application registering the noise inside the school as being up to 94 decibels, which is equivalent to a gas lawnmower.
“The construction is continuous, so you always hear a little bit, but sometimes it is really bad,” said the mother of a girl in year 1.
“Sometimes they have to cancel classes, the Arabic class for instance is a place where they cannot hear each other.”
Some parents said they have temporarily withdrawn their children from the school, fearing the noise and tremors may cause them harm.
“I know one child in the same class as my daughter who has strong headaches now and can no longer come,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified.
“One kid is scratching his face, apparently, another girl is actually really scared because the school is trembling, it’s like an earthquake. It’s not always like that, but some of the kids are scared. It’s definitely not good for their ears.”
Repton has responded to the complaints by relocating students from the classrooms closest to the construction site to rooms on the opposite side of the school. Administrators are also regularly monitoring the air quality and measuring the decibel levels inside the school. Updates are communicated with parents on a weekly basis.
“The safety and well-being of pupils are of utmost concern to the school,” Repton Abu Dhabi said in a statement.
“The school’s senior leadership team has been closely monitoring the situation and has been in constant touch with the parent community through their class representatives. Weekly meetings have been held and parents have been kept informed at every stage on measures taken by the school to minimise disruption."
Repton’s administration has also asked the construction company, CATIC, and the island’s master developer, Aldar Properties, to do what they can to stop piling works during school hours.
“We are in discussions with the master developer and relevant regulatory authorities to expedite the approval of a night works permit,” according to Repton. “This will ensure that there is no further disruption for pupils in Rose Campus by stopping the piling works during school hours.”
Aldar Properties is the master developer of a large section of Reem Island, but does not own the land where Central Park Tower is being built. The land was sold to an undisclosed third party.
“Aldar Properties has sold a number of plots to third party developers in addition to retaining a number of plots for its own development purposes,” the company said in a statement. “Aldar requires that all development activity takes place in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, which includes ensuring the safety and security of every person within its master planned communities.”
A site manager of the construction project said CATIC had applied for, but had not yet been issued, a permit by the Abu Dhabi Municipality that would allow work continue at night. The Central Park Tower project is expected to take at least three years to complete, he said.
“If the municipality gives me permission, I don’t have objection to working at night,” said Sameeh Mohammed, site manager of the Central Park Tower project. “It would be no problem for me. But until I get the night work permission, I cannot stop work.”
Michael Xu, a senior administrator at CATIC, said: “We really are trying our best to get a permit. We really are very sorry about the noise the children are experiencing in the school.”
Abu Dhabi Municipality did not respond to questions about the construction work.
Parents said in the absence of a night permit, the 500 pupils and 100 staff should be moved to Repton Abu Dhabi’s second campus, called Fry, which recently opened just 1 kilometre from the Rose campus to accommodate pupils from Year 3 to Year 13.
“None of us know what impact this level of shaking and drilling has on a small building in such close proximity to the construction site. It would be foolish to not do anything," said the mother of a year 2 boy.