PROGRESS OF THE MOLD REMEDIATION:
Key information we learned from SERVPRO and Integrity Environmental Services, the two companies working to remediate the mold issues, included:
- All baseboard in the building was removed to assess what was behind it.
- 7000 feet of drywall behind the baseboard was found to have mold growth on it.
- This led to more invasive probing by opening walls.
- Full eradication of 9000 linear feet of various types of mold growth took place and 2 miles of drywall was replaced.
- The building has gone through 3 separate cleanings.
- The duct cleaning will commence on 1/28 and is expected to be done by Saturday morning.
- Baseboard will not be reinstalled prior to the school reopening, nor will the the drywall be painted. This work will be done after school hours.
- Once the cleaning is completed by SERVPRO, Integrity Environmental Systems will conduct air quality tests and swab tests for mold. The representative stated that there are still "lot of discussions" that need to occur to determine exactly what and how much testing needs to be done in order to "clear" the building for re-occupancy.
- The Integrity representative stated that if every room is tested, it will be difficult to get the analysis and reports completed by next Monday.
- He stated that he expects all of the samples to be "favorable"and believes the school could be reoccupied even before the full report is completed.
- Integrity stated that it would be late Sunday, at the earliest, before the building could be cleared for re-occupancy.
- During the meeting, Board Member Clarin expressed his dismay that the information given during the meeting did not match what he had been told a couple of hours before the meeting, but he did not elaborate on exactly what the differences were.
- Concerns were expressed about the elevated levels of C02 that have been found in the building. He asked what the health impact of high levels could be and was told it can lead to fatigue and not feeling well. This raises a ventilation issue that must be addressed.
- Board Member Garg asked why the MRC carpeting was not being replaced. The answer was that because the carpeting is plastic based, mold cannot grow on it and it has been hot-water extracted and is clean.
Following this presentation, the board asked questions about the costs to complete the mold remediation work. Board docs for the meeting included a list of the non-insurance covered expenditures to date. (Click to open cost summary.)
- So far $483,773 has been spent that will not be covered by insurance.
- In addition, the board approved up to $50,000 for heaters that will need to be used to heat the building during the duct-cleaning (since the HVAC system must be shut off during this process) and to heat cold spots in the future.
- The cost of the mold remediation by SERVPRO -- previously $129,000 was approved -- will increase because of the additional mold that was discovered that required more extensive work. SERVPRO was unable to give any kind of estimate for this additional work during last nights meeting. We were surprised that no one on the Board pushed for a projection of these additional costs. Since at least five extra days of work were required by the army of SERVPRO workers, we will not be surprised if the original $129,000 approved expenditure doubles.
- To date the air quality tests have cost approximately $18,000 and the additional tests later this week my double that expenditure.
MID TERM, WATER INCURSION PREVENTION EXPENSES NEEDED:
Following a discussion of the SHORT TERM expenses, there were presentations given by ARCON, a roofing company, and Healy Bender, the architectural firm previously contracted to develop a facilities plan, to address the MID TERM projects needed at HMS to ensure that there are no further water incursion events caused by roof leaks or gaps in the walls that allow cold air to enter the building and lead to frozen, broken pipes.
- The Board approved contracting with ARCON to develop specs for a new asphalt "compact" roof to replace the metal roof currently on HMS. The cost to develop the specs is $100,000.
- The ARCON representative stated that the roof is stainless steel, 37 years old (except for the roof over the gym) and is showing many years of wear and tear. Rust is evident, in particular on the vertical roof panels.
- A compact, asphalt shingled roof is needed.
- Mr. Heneghan asked why despite ARCON getting paid $170,000 last summer to do roof repairs, didn't ARCON identify the need for a new roof then? ARCON's answer was that the "dynamics" had changed since last summer and essentially said that unless contracted to do something, it was not their place to recommend a new roof.
- As concerned parents, and as expressed by one board member and community member during public comment, it baffles us that the District would contract again with ARCON knowing that it had not brought roof leak and replacement issues to the Board's attention last summer. Wouldn't it be better to go out to bid and seek the opinion of other roofing companies?
- It seems to us that the Board was backed into a corner and forced to go with ARCON last night because, once again, it finds itself in a reactive mode, rather than a proactive mode. Faced with the current HMS crisis, time is of the essence and what should have been planned for slowly and methodically must now be rushed in order to ensure that no more water can leak into the building.
- Once the roof specs are ready, the projected cost of a new roof is approximately $2.5 million, PLUS ARCON will be paid 7% of the project cost to oversee it to completion. If the work isn't contracted soon, the costs could go up 10%.
- The Board approved $100,000 for ARCON to complete the new roof plans.
- Next up was Healy Bender, the architectural firm. They reported that not only must the roof be replaced, but soffits and exterior walls need to be replaced and repaired. They explained that there are walls throughout the building that have gaps that allow cold air to enter the building and areas where you can even see daylight. The cold air rushing in can cause pipes to freeze and break. In order to access these walls, the soffit panels need to be replaced. (Click to open Soffit Report.)
- According to the written proposal, the projected cost to replace the soffits and repair the walls, inclusive of the 6% in fees to be paid to Healy Bender is $500,000. During the meeting the representative said the cost could be as low as $250,000 to $400,000, excluding their fees.
- The Board approved the soffit and wall work.
So, 3 1/2 weeks into the new year, HMS has incurred nearly $500,000 in repair and remediation costs and is now tapped to incur over $3 million more in MID TERM expenses just to keep the building open and safe from future water incursion events. And those expenditures don't even begin to address the ventilation issues (resulting in elevated C02 levels) or the space issues resulting in overcrowded classrooms and the need for modulars.
LONG TERM SIGNIFICANCE:
LONG TERM SIGNIFICANCE:
Dr. Schuster has been the superintendent of D181 for almost four years. When she arrived, the building was overcrowded. When she arrived, there were modulars in place. During her tenure, mold and health concerns were brought to the administrations attention. What did she do about them? Was there any planning done to address the health concerns, mold concerns or long term facilities needs? Did Dr. Schuster do anything to proactively address them? Not until this year was a facilities committee formed to look at the facilities needs of ALL the district buildings. Not until the Polar Freeze initiated crisis did the administration and board REACT and scramble to fix the problems at HMS.
What was needed was a long term plan to address whether is is time to build a new middle school. The answer is most likely yes. The problem is that a new school will cost upwards of $25 million. As we recall, in 2007 when former superintendent James Tenbusch considered building a new HMS at the site of Veeck Park, the estimated cost was upward of $25 million. No doubt the cost will be higher now. Taxpayer approval via a referendum to raise funds for the new construction will be needed.
Will the voters approve such a referendum? With each passing day, and with the costs of slapping band aids on HMS to keep it open skyrocket into the millions, we doubt that a referendum to raise millions more for a new school will pass with certainty. It will take a very persuasive case to be made for spending millions now and many more in the next few years to put up a replacement. What will be needed is an Administration and Board that can sell the need for a new HMS to all D181 voters, not just parents of students who will attend HMS. The Administration and Board will need to be trusted by all voters to tell the full story of why a new school is needed, on the heels of spending millions. The Board will need a very strong educational leader to not just manage the day to day curriculum needs of the students, but the facilities needs of the entire district and who will do it with full transparency and accountability. That leadership is lacking now.
So while at this time we support the idea of building a new HMS in theory, before the Board dares to come to the taxpayers seeking more money for this project, they must clean house! Otherwise, no one will entrust them with additional taxpayer money.