August 2002 : LUSENET : Diversity coalitions : One Thread

August news and views

-- Anonymous, August 01, 2002


BOICEVILLE - Onteora school board members gave approval Tuesday for construction agreements with six companies for work on $6.97 million in projects in three schools. Agreement to award seven contracts for the work came after officials said the amount was $52,826 under estimates approved by voters in different propositions during the past year.

Included were expansion of Bennett Elementary School and work on roofs at West Hurley Elementary School, while Onteora Junior-Senior High School will have work on roofs and the gym.

"This is really a big step forward for us," Superintendent Hal Rowe said.

"Having all the bids in and now approved I think is really important," he said. "It's a credit to our (consultants) that we were able to have it come in under the budget."

Contracts approved were for:

* Avala Contracting, at $60,000 for work on the high school gym floor and roof. The agreement also covers $3,000 for portions of renovations at the administrative offices.

* Arold Paving Company of Kingston, at $266,000 for work on a temporary parking lot, an access road to the elementary school, tennis court parking area, replacement of sidewalks, construction of stairs to the playground, and landscaping in the courtyard.

* Arris Contracting Company, at $2.47 million for gym floor work at the high school, exterior classroom replacements, administration office renovations, replacement of corridor ceilings, and work in the library office.

* Associated Construction, at $1.03 million for roof repairs at the high school.

* Ashley Mechanical, at $192,000 for plumbing work and $669,600 for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

* Hudson Valley Electrical Construction Maintenance, at $448,444 for electrical work.

Work has already begun at the Bennett Elementary School where officials last year were forced to seek approval for six permanent rooms to replace modular classrooms.

Kemble, Daily Freeman 7/31 newsid=4903923&BRD=1769&PAG=461&dept_id=74969&rfi=8

-- Anonymous, August 01, 2002

Next Board meeting Monday the 19th, 7 PM at the high school.

Tobe, when will the meeting be where they get the guy in to tell them how to work nice-nice with each other? That one's going to be done in the public eye, right? We might all learn something ourselves.

Give CARE a big thrill and step over to their redesigned website, which now has two enormous eagles ("Carrion. Mmmm."), and can't spell "navigation." On the agenda is still "Preservation & Protection of the Onteora Indian," making it sound a bit like a spotted owl.

Anyone seen a "Smoke Signals" recently?

-- Anonymous, August 14, 2002

Braman Freeman 8/15 newsid=5054845&BRD=1769&PAG=461&dept_id=74969&rfi=8

PHOENICIA - The Onteora school district has removed a significant portion of the playground equipment at Phoenicia Elementary School and it remains unclear whether it will be replaced. Tire tracks were visible Wednesday where heavy equipment had been used to rip the old "lunar lander" out of the ground. Two metal slides are gone, too.

The removal of the equipment - some of it in place since the 1960s - came after the district's insurance company deemed much of it unsafe and ordered its removal. The company, Utica Mutual, inspected the facility in May and issued a report calling for several pieces of apparatus to be retired. School officials at the time expressed hope that nothing would have to be removed, but the pieces ultimately had to go.

Removing the unsafe equipment was a relatively simple process, but replacing the eliminated items in order to maintain a high-quality playground environment for local children is proving to be more difficult.

"I have no idea if the district is going to replace anything," said Peter Giambrone, Onteora's supervisor of buildings and grounds.

Onteora Superintendent Hal Rowe, who previously called the replacement of playground equipment "a significant capital expense," could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The removed equipment has been scrapped, despite some talk months ago that it perhaps could be used by another organization.

"We had to scrap it. Once it doesn't meet code, we can't give it to anybody else," Giambrone said.

The district is also replacing all the wood chip ground cover around the remaining playground equipment with new material, a move also requested by the insurance company.

-- Anonymous, August 16, 2002

Kemble Daily Freeman 8/17/02

WEST HURLEY - One of the two buildings that makes up West Hurley Elementary School will be closed for the entire 2002-03 academic year because of air quality problems, forcing all classes to be held in the other building, the Onteora school district superintendent said Friday. The move will displace nearly 120 students in three grades.

Superintendent Hal Rowe said district officials will learn formally on Monday that the Ryan Building - the older of the two structures at the Cedar Street complex - has above-normal levels of carbon dioxide.

"We have information from air quality testing that indicates a higher- than-normal CO2 level," Rowe said. "The root cause of it is the air exchange in the building is totally inadequate.

"The building, at the time it was built, never was equipped with anything other than a gravity system that supposes that hot air rises up through a flue and into an attic area and out," the superintendent explained.

The Ryan Building was erected in 1936 as a two-room schoolhouse and was expanded in 1954 and 1957.

Employees in the building have complained about air-related health problems, such as breathing difficulties and scratchy throats, for about a year.

Details of the problem will be presented by a risk management representative from Ulster BOCES during a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Onteora Middle-Senior High School on state Route 28 in Boiceville.

The Ryan Building is used by 117 students and six teachers in grades kindergarten through 2. Because of the shutdown, those grades will relocate to the adjacent Levins Building, which houses grades 3 through 6. The Levins Building, constructed in 1964, typically houses about 180 students.

"I'm prepared to say that we can accommodate all the youngsters" in the Levins Building, Rowe said.

One recommendation for correcting the problem in the Ryan Building "is that we need to install unit ventilators in each room," Rowe said. "That total project is of a size that it qualifies as capital improvement project and we have to go through the whole process with the state (Education Department) ... and hold a (public) referendum in order to get to a permanent solution."

Officials do not yet know how much the work will cost, and Rowe did not know how long it will take to win state approval of the project.

"We know that we'll work to get an emergency declared, but short of that, it will be a lengthy process of working through a (state Education Department) that is already backed up with projects," the superintendent said.

This is the second time in a little over a year that an environmental problem has displaced elementary schoolers in the Onteora district. In April 2001, six classrooms and a music room at Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville had to be closed because of mold contamination. Students who typically used those rooms were moved to other rooms in the same building.

Onteora Teachers Association President George DeFina said the West Hurley situation shouldn't create as much of a space crunch as the Bennett problem did.

"What we didn't have at Bennett was any additional space, and I don't think (West Hurley) is going to impacted in quite the same way," he said. "It is going to be inconvenient, and they might have to double up kindergarten (classes), but it doesn't look like that will be the case for the upper grades."

DeFina said the union will review the results of air quality tests in the West Hurley building to determine whether there are long-term health concerns.

The Onteora district has four elementary schools in all: West Hurley, Bennett, Woodstock and Phoenicia.

In the neighboring Rondout Valley school district, Marbletown Elementary School had to be closed from December 1999 to August 2000 because of mold contamination. Students from the school were divided among other buildings in the district until the problem could be solved. newsid=5079014&BRD=1769&PAG=461&dept_id=74969&rfi=6

-- Anonymous, August 17, 2002

I'm back from a vacation and am curious...does Phoenicia have a principal?

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2002

I'm not sure myself -- but while you are checking Phoenicia for the presence of principals, may as well keep an eye out for mold too.


Freeman 8/21 Kemble

BOICEVILLE - Carbon dioxide levels in the Ryan Building at West Hurley Elementary School exceed minimum "comfort" levels by more than twice the state-recommended amounts, a BOCES consultant says. The information was provided in a report given to the Onteora Board of Education on Monday, when officials agreed to attempt temporary solutions for ventilation before implementing plans to have the Levins Building at the school used for all classes.

BOCES Environmental Compliance Coordinator Michael O'Rourke said three reports were prepared for the district based on reviews of the facility and environmental testing done between May and July.

"During our investigation we learned that there is no mechanical ventilation in the building to supply outside air," he said. "The classrooms in the original building, construction date 1935, have passive relief vents in the closets. In the lower additions there are exhaust fans in the corridor that, it appears, are designed to draw classroom air through louvers in the corridor/classroom walls."

In a three-page letter outlining results of the test, O'Rourke said standards were based on the air exchange rate in rooms.

"On two days in May we performed monitoring for carbon dioxide in Room 4 in the Ryan Building," he said. "CO2 is often used as an indirect indicator of ventilation rates in building. On both days the peak CO2 concentration in Room 4 exceeded 2,600 (parts per million)."

O'Rourke said health guidelines "state that comfort criteria ... are likely to be satisfied if the ventilation results in indoor CO2 concentrations less than 700 ppm above the outdoor air concentration. Outdoor CO2 levels in Ulster county are typically in the 250-350 ppm range. Therefore ventilation should be deigned to keep indoor CO2 concentrations below 1,100 ppm."

The letter also noted the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration "limit for exposure to CO2 is 5,000 ppm."

Officials report there are 117 students in the Ryan Building, which has nine rooms for kindergarten through second-grade classes and space for special education programs. Enrollment was reported at 133 students in the Levins Building, which has primarily had classes for grades three through six.

Recommendations under the temporary solution include:

* Upgrades to the corridor exhaust fans.

* Removing blocks from the wall louver in a special instruction room.

* Providing motorized exhaust for the classroom relief vents and bathrooms in the oldest section of the building.

* Installing screens for windows in classrooms.

* Purchasing air filters that reduce the amount of airborne contaminates in each room.

* Diligently repair of any water damage caused by roof leaks.

* Implementing the federal Tools for Schools Indoor Air Quality Program to provide training for staff members.

Officials said the temporary measures will cost up to $7,500 while permanent ventilation improvements in nine rooms were estimated at up to $90,000 and would take a year to complete.

O'Rouke said additional testing should be done for mold and asbestos, but reported no elevated levels of those substances have been found.

District classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 5 for the 2002-03 academic year. newsid=5105288&BRD=1769&PAG=461&dept_id=74969&rfi=8

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2002

Hi everyone. Hope all are having a wonderful summer.

Regarding the air quality issue at West Hurley Elementary School, I learned from an Ryan Building employee that a rug was installed last year in one of the lower classrooms because the tile floor was "too slippery." For some reason the rug displayed signs mold and needed to be cleaned.

As the account goes, instead of a professional carpet cleaning company being hired, the maintenance person was assigned the task. His solution, however, was to "soak" the rug in an attempt to clean it. This action caused further mold, not the desired elimination.

The employee who spoke to me believes that those in charge will surely know to remove and discard this rug. I hope this to be the case. Anyone familiar with this building (or any other in the district), please share your concerns and/or solutions.

Thank you, Laurel

-- Anonymous, August 21, 2002

Here are two responses to my comments above which I also posted on the Daily Freeman web page:

1) To CHS: Carpeting should be the last consideration of flooring in a school since it does harbor mold, bacteria, etc. Many schools are now removing all carpet. In a school such as this one, where the CO2 levels are high, it is downright dangerous to put new carpet down because of the formaldehyde outgassing. New upholstered and/or veneered office furniture also outgasses formaldehyde. Couple that with mold, asbestos, and C02 levels, and you have a poisonous soupy environment. I'll bet that these poor kids, teachers too, have a hard time concentrating.

2) Carpeting was installed in the entire rear section of the Ryan building 2 or 3 years ago. This included 2 classrooms and a hallway. Long ago one of those classrooms was divided into a foyer and 3 small rooms for counseling, speech and reading services. The asbestos floor tiles were often wet due to humidity and moisture from the concrete slab under them. Some tiles were beginning to warp. Rather then disturb the asbestos tiles, carpeting was installed. The remainder of the building has hardwood floors. And yes, surely all the years the roof was leaking, in many places, produced copious amounts of mold. A West Hurley fireman reported at the BOE meeting this past Monday that he has seen the mold himself. It seems that a lot of work needs to be done, and the BOE trustees are playing around with the health and safety of the students and staff!

Given this information, it's hard not to agree with this last sentence.

Let's do the right (and healthy) thing!


-- Anonymous, August 21, 2002

Here is yet another Daily Freeman response to the article:

"It would seem to me that upgrading the present exhaust system would only tend to exacerbate the situation and pose a danger to the youngsters, as it would just spew whatever is in the air (viruses, bacteria, mold and their mycotoxins, asbestos(?), and VOCs). The school HAS mold if it has had a leaky roof. If it is penicillium, aspergillus, or stachybotris, then even the hidden mold will produce life-threatening mycotoxins that will circulate thoughout the school. Asbestos was mentioned. This is horrible! This school needs to be thoroughly tested and the tests be presented to the public. The students and teachers should not be exposed to any of this. Get rid of the fans. Maybe even get rid of the school if it is mold infested too! Filters CANNOT kill or trap mycotoxins. Filters with UV lights might be able to. Facts are not yet in on that. In reply to "not so intelligent", the school year consists of temperatures that don't allow for windows to be opened. They should be able to be opened on nice days, but those are few while school is in session. Money is "wasted" on far less important projects. This is NOT a waste of money. It's protecting the health of our students and teachers." Has anyone on the Board visited the school to conduct a personal assessment?


-- Anonymous, August 21, 2002

The Ryan building consists of the original 2-room school house with at least 3 additions made afterwards (2 sets of classrooms and the auditorium). The original part is the highest because it is built over a basement. Given it's height the second may be over a crawl space, while the third is one top of a concrete slab, as stated in the article. Because the original part has a basement, moisture problems from the ground were probably never an issue. If roof repair is neglected, however, moisture becomes a problem no matter how dry the basement. The slab, on the other hand, was probably chosen instead of a basement or crawl space to reduce construction costs. This is a perfect example of how reducing construction costs and ignoring repairs for the short run cause problems in the long run, resulting in exhorbitant future expense.

-- Anonymous, August 27, 2002

My deepest sympathies to Anne-Marie for the loss of her sister. I'm left with fond memories of Karen as a fellow classmate and extend my wishes of comfort to her family during this sad time.

Sincerely, Laurel Herdman

-- Anonymous, August 27, 2002

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