By Curt Peterson
POMFRET—Two days before school was supposed to start at Prosper Valley School in Pomfret, parents were advised the morning of Aug. 27 that school would not open as expected due to mold.
“Some significant issues have arisen with the Prosper Valley School facility that will result in the cancellation of tonight’s Ice Cream Social and a delay in the opening of school,” the notice from Superintendent Mary Beth Banios and TVPS principal John Hansen said.
The Prosper Valley School, which serves about 68 students in grades K-6 from Bridgewater and Pomfret, will not open this year.
Building and Grounds Manager Joe Rigoli said at a board meeting the evening of Aug. 27 that moisture issues in the building that had existed for a long time were exacerbated by July’s hot and humid weather, providing a perfect breeding place for Aspergillus mold.
“The (mold) is not toxic,” the notice said. “However, it is an allergen that is at high enough levels in some areas that it is of particular concern for those with asthma or compromised immune systems.”
In an internal memo to Banios, Finance and Operations Director Richard Seaman reported on tests performed by contractor Green Home Solutions.
“Three locations in the building were tested: the gym and two classrooms. Results included unacceptable high levels of two spore types. Acceptable level is a measure of less than 800. Results of the test ranged from 1,700 in the gym to 101,000 in one of the classrooms.”
Rigoli said Hansen and the teachers have been working in the building all week with no noticeable ill effects – a fact they confirmed.
A “deep clean” by ServiceMaster, at a cost of close to $25,000, did little to alleviate the problem – subsequent tests still showed a persistently high level of mold.
Remediation, Seaman wrote, has to happen in stages – first, removal of moisture via some kind of “air conditioning or dehumidification system,” – second, removal of all flooring, – and third, another deep cleaning, including ductwork.
Seaman listed very rough estimates for remediation costs that, including a $25,000 figure for “Unknowns”, totals $200,000.
The Board decided, with Banios’s, Seaman’s and Rigoli’s agreement, to wait until full information on remedy options and costs are known – possibly by the Sept. 10 board meeting – before taking action on remediation.
Meanwhile, PVS students need a place to go to school.
“In exploring options for getting PVS students back into school as quickly as possible,” Banios said in a memo to the board, “the recommendation is to relocate the full student body to Woodstock Elementary School effective Tuesday, Sept. 4.”
Working with Hansen and WES principal Maggie Mills, Banios wrote, they know they will have to juggle some class configurations to fit all the PVS students into the four classrooms WES can make available.
The Banios memo pointed out all the PVS students will remain in one group, that they will have access to all the Woodstock amenities and equipment, and that the bus routes already exist for the middle and high school students from Pomfret and Bridgewater.
The board voted unanimously to approve the relocation plan, and Hansen and his educators said they were determined “to make it work” for the kids.
Banios will facilitate an informational meeting for interested Woodstock, Bridgewater and Pomfret parents and residents at Suicide Six Resort at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28.