By Curt Peterson
Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District (WCMUUSD) facilities manager Joe Rigoli told the Board in Reading on Oct. 12 that he learned a lot about the history of The Prosper Valley School from a box of old paperwork tucked away in a building recess.
TPVS was closed indefinitely this fall and the students bused to Woodstock Elementary School, since widespread mold infestation was found in the building. It’s assumed closure will last a year, and very early estimates for mitigating the moisture problem approached $500,000.
“It seems the school had the same issues 20 to 25 years ago,” Rigoli said and described how, due to moisture, the floor failed to adhere to its base when the building was first constructed.
A claim against the architect and the building contractor was settled, Rigoli said.
The fill beneath the floor was “not to specifications,” he said. The Pomfret School Board was faced with two choices, one more expensive than they could afford.
“It wasn’t feasible to remove all the fill and put in what should be there, so they sealed it up and put the floor back down,” Rigoli said.
Rigoli and Finance and Operations Manager Richard Seaman said no one can figure out from where the water is coming. The school was built on lowlands, meaning the septic system had to be placed across Pomfret Road. But will repaired and better drainage, and waterproofing the foundation, which was never done, solve the problem?
Previously Seaman discussed installing heavy-duty dehumidifiers inside the building to absorb moisture. Moisture is wicking through the concrete pad because the water pressure below is greater than the air pressure above, so sucking the wetness out might only make matters worse, he said.
Rigoli said it will be four to six weeks before engineers and tests will indicate if there are steps that might resolve the moisture issue causing the mold.
“I think there is probably a way to get the building up and running again, but the question is – at what cost?” Rigoli said.
Seaman said the building definitely belongs to the new district. The deed has been conveyed by the now-dissolved Pomfret School Board, but it hasn’t been recorded at the courthouse yet.
“Whatever is to be done about TVPS,” Seaman said, “we have to decide as a district.”
Figures between $250,000 and $500,000 were mentioned loosely in the conversation. Seaman said any rehabilitation of TVPS would be financed with a bond issue that would require approval by the voters in every town in the district.
“If the bond is denied by the voters, is the MUUD going to take care of the building until they give it back to the town?” Kuzmickas asked.
Seaman said the district would still have to do something with the building if it wasn’t in use as a school.
The Mountain Times asked if the town has the option, under Act 46, to refuse to take the school back after the four-year guarantee, possibly leaving the MUUD stuck with a closed school, and Seaman confirmed that that was true.
Pomfret resident Jody Eaton said everything she heard at the meeting was pessimistic about TPVS, that the school was more than a building, that the school is a community of teachers, students, parents, employees and residents who use and enjoy the building during off-hours.
Reading resident Boolie Sluka made a passionate plea to the MUUD Board, reciting ways in which the Reading Elementary School is, she feels, being stripped of staff, students and resources, while they have the same number of students as TPVS and no problems with their building.
“Why are you disrespecting our national-prize-winning school, which has no building problems, and considering pouring money into Prosper Valley, which is only five minutes from Woodstock, and has the same number of students?” Sluka asked.
Sluka said she feels the board has misrepresented its intentions from the start and is carrying out a long-held plan to close Reading.
Reading held three votes regarding joining the WMUUSD – the third and final vote was in favor. The local school board, consisting of Justin Sluka and Donna Martin, had opposed merging.