The board approved proposals to move forward with HVAC and drainage improvements with district engineers
The next steps in the remediation of mold at Holly Glen Elementary School were a major point of discussion at last week’s Board of Education meeting.
The board approved two proposals from district engineering consultant Federici & Akin to move forward in addressing the elementary school’s HVAC system and drainage that had caused mold contamination found in October.
The first proposal, for $118,100, would “provide architectural and design engineering services for the complete replacement of the existing mechanical system” at Holly Glen Elementary School, including an engineering study, preparation of documents and construction contract administration services to address the interior HVAC system in the building, according to representative Wendy Kunz.
The second proposal, for $102,100, would modify the building’s exterior envelope and site drainage to “address moisture issues” at the school.
“Most of the water problems at that school are strictly from loose drainage or lack of proper drainage, collecting the water along the exterior where the downspouts are and connecting it through underground piping to the nearest stormwater drain or basin,” Kunz said.
Although board member Jeff Simpler approved the proposals as to not further hold up any progress on the building, he was concerned with the conditions of the building’s foundation and requested the engineering consultants conduct a comprehensive study to ensure the stability and safety of the school.
“I don’t want to rush to get this school open just to appease the public and the next thing you know we have to shut it down again because we have bigger problems than we thought originally,” Simpler said. “The last thing I want to do is open that school back up and have it fall on top of 400 kids, teachers and everyone else inside that building.”
According to Kunz, this comprehensive study on the foundation is included in the approved proposals and will take place as the work is being done.
Members of the public in attendance on Thursday, Jan. 18, expressed frustration and concerns about how much repair is still left to be done, and the crowded conditions for displaced students who are attending classes in other district schools.
Resident and member of the Monroe Township Education Association Paul VanHouten asked the board if there was a “Plan B” moving forward if the district’s engineers at Federici and Akin determined extensive damage during a comprehensive study of the school building. According to VanHouten, some students from Holly Glen who are attending Radix Elementary School at this time are learning in classrooms of more than 30 students, and suggested the board consider a summer catch-up program for those who may be falling behind.
“They are not in the optimal situation to be learning and it’s not an optimal situation to be teaching,” VanHouten said.
While Simpler recommended the board revive the planning committee that had formed for the return of Whitehall Elementary School, which opened in early January, Board of Education President George Caruso said he will be organizing a committee with fellow members of the board, district and public to create a plan for the future of Holly Glen Elementary School.
“Forty children in a classroom is not a conducive environment,” Simpler said. “A normal child has already lost this year, but when you’re talking about a special needs child, they’re losing two or three years because when they don’t have the necessities to get the material they need, it’s hard.”
Superintendent Charles Earling said the administration has received estimates for approximately four to six potential trailers to be used at Radix Elementary School to alleviate the classrooms that are being used as double-sessions with 30 to 40 students at a time.
In other news:
- In regard to concerns of contamination at the district’s property located at 128 Saybrook Ave., which is to be used for administrative offices, addressed at a previous board meeting, Board of Education Solicitor John Amano provided findings the building had been deemed safe by previous engineering consultants Remington & Vernick.
In his findings, Amano said Remington & Vernick had conducted a “Phase One Environmental Site Assessment Report” when the property had been purchased to recognize any environmental conditions or problems the board would need to be alerted to that may cause it to rescind its offer to buy or bring it concern. In the report, there were references to a previous environmental situation at the site, Amano said, where an underground 1,000-gallon heating oil tank had leached into the property in 2004. Since the tank had been removed and remediation had been done to the property, the site was issued a “No Further Action Letter” by the Department of Environmental Protection, Amano said.
Amano also said as part of the assessment, the engineers, in 2011, had requested any reports in regard to environmental issues on the site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the county, the township planning board, board of health and clerk’s office. No positive responses were received in regard to contamination or environmental concerns, according to Amano.
- The Board of Education appointed Earling as the district’s school safety specialist for the 2017–18 school year with a 7–2 vote. Simpler and Therese Bonmati voted “no” with concerns on Earling’s qualifications for the job. The position was previously held by former Assistant Superintendent Anthony Petruzzelli, and must be appointed to an employee who has acquired superintendent certifications.
- Earling recognized the Board of Education with a resolution as the New Jersey School Boards Association had declared January 2018 as School Board Recognition Month, “a time when all residents can acknowledge the contributions made by local school board members.”
- Business Administrator and Board Secretary Lisa Schulz presented the board with awards given by the Gloucester County Joint Insurance Fund, such as the 2016–17 Safety Elite Award, Certificate of Excellence for painting a loss ratio between 50 percent and 90 percent for the 2016–17 school year, recognition of outstanding performance of claims processing between one and three days, as well as a check for $2,000.
- The board approved a revised 2017–18 school year calendar, which reflects the two snow days used. Make-up days are scheduled for Monday, April 2, and Friday, May 25. Additionally, revisions were made to the marking periods for the middle and high schools. The second marking period, which began in November, will now end on Feb. 2, the third period will begin Feb. 5 and end April 11, and the final quarter will begin April 12 and finish on June 16.