Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LATE BREAKING NEWS: HMS To Remain Closed Through At Least Tuesday, 1/28.

The D181 Board of Education held an emergency meeting on 1/20/14 at 7 pm. The meeting lasted over 3 hours. The purpose was to address and approve nearly $400,000 in mold remediation work that must be completed before Hinsdale Middle School can reopen. Four news stations -- CBS, NBC, ABC and WGN -- covered the meeting.  While we encourage everyone to listen to the D181 Podcast of the meeting, below are links to the available online news coverage, as well as our summary of what was discussed, disclosed and decided.

After the meeting, Dr. Schuster sent an email to parents (it is copied at the end of this post).  She confirmed what was disclosed during the meeting -- HMS will be closed through at least next Tuesday.  As of Monday night, no alternate plans had been developed by Dr. Schuster and her administration to relocate HMS students to another building, however,  Dr. Schuster must now formulate a plan to possibly implement split shifts at Clarendon Hills Middle School, and present it to the Board.  This could possibly result in HMS students resuming classes -- at CHMS -- later this week.

News Coverage available online:
Click to open CBS coverage.
Click to open ABC coverage.
Click to open WGN coverage.

Summary of what was disclosed, discussed and decided:

  • Representative from the cleaning/restoration company, SERVPRO, and air quality/mold testing company, Integrity Environmental Services, presented their report of the mold that was discovered last week at HMS. After ongoing past health concerns and complaints from teachers and students who suspected there was mold in the building, last November and December air quality tests were conducted.  Those test results came back within acceptable levels.  
  • However, because of the ongoing complaints, the plan would have been to begin testing drywall and other surfaces for the presence of mold. Before the final report from last year's testing was finalized, the polar vortex struck and the resulting water damage caused by pipes bursting and the roof leaking led to new testing after mold was discovered during the cleanup.  Areas in the building that had passed air quality tests were found to have mold after all.  90% of areas tested came back positive for mold growth.  Some of the mold was recent, some of it was old.  
  • Both companies recommended that before school can reopen, all baseboard and drywall touching baseboard throughout the entire building must be replaced. In addition, all of the duct work throughout the building must be cleaned, sanitized and treated with a mold preventative solution. Estimated cost is nearly $400,000.  Because some of the mold that was discovered could not be traced to the events of the last week, SERVPRO representatives indicated that insurance would not cover the baseboard and drywall work.  They indicated that the duct cleaning might be covered by the insurance.
  • The baseboard and drywall work will not be completed before Friday.
  • Following completion of that work, the ducts must be cleaned and this will take up to two days.
  • Following the duct cleaning, the testing company must take new air and swab samples, and the results and report on this testing will take at least two days.  
  • For the first time, the community was told that it is unlikely the work can be done and the test results returned by Sunday night so that school can resume next Monday.  More likely, the test results will not be back until next Tuesday, perhaps Wednesday.
  • Before the Board voted to approve this remediation work, Board Member Garg insisted and brought a motion to allow community members to speak, ask questions and receive answers. We thank her for realizing the importance of giving the community members a meaningful voice in this discussion.  We frown upon Mr. Turek's initial attempts to simply have the board vote on the recommended work, followed only by public comment, but no questions.  The Board approved Ms. Garg's motion.
  • Many parents spoke, as did a teacher and parent of a student who had reported health concerns long before the polar vortex related to suspected mold. These health concerns included severe migraine headaches.  The teacher that spoke identified her classroom as one that had tested within normal limits for air quality, but now old mold has been discovered in the drywall.  Not mold caused by recent events!
  • The recommended work does not include replacement of the roof, but the SERVPRO reps said it should be replaced.
  • SERVPRO acknowledged that they have not been able to pinpoint the source of all the roof leaks.  So far 25 separate leaks have been discovered.  They said there was and may still be inadequate insulation around pipes and in the roof. They have been doing their best to insulate as they work to remediate the insulation issues they are uncovering.
  • Parents expressed concern over the fact that the reported mold and health issues had not been brought to the Board's attention in the past and that it took the polar vortex crisis to finally get it addressed.  Former Board Member Yvonne Mayer stated that the only mold issues that had been brought to the Board in the four years she served (her term expired in April 2013) was a request to remodel some bathrooms at HMS after mold was discovered. She stated that she had asked the administration if there were any other potential mold issues or anticipated work and the Board was told no. She then pointed out that the teachers had been right all along -- there was mold in the building.
  • Parents asked many questions about why if the air quality tests are within acceptable limits, can't the work take place during spring break in order that school can resume immediately.  The company representatives advised against this and said the issues need to fixed now because of the health concerns. The representative from SERVPRO was asked by one parent if he would send his children to the school without the remediation work being completed first.  His answer was NO.
  • One parent commented that perhaps what needs to be considered is building a new middle school. Board Member Heneghan indicated that this would require a referendum and could take 2 to 3 years from start to finish.
  • Parents expressed concern that students will miss up to 9 instructional days (maybe more) since winter break, 7 of them caused by the discovery and needed eradication of the mold.  The question they all had was why can't the students go to an alternate location?
  • One parent pointed out the speculation in the community that Dr. Schuster has been out of town for much of the last 2 weeks, rather than on site dealing directly with the crisis.  Dr. Schuster did not answer the actual question about whether she had been out of town, rather she deflected by answering that she has been seen at HMS by teachers. 
  • After questioning by community members and Board Member Henghan, the administration acknowledged that no plan has been formulated yet for an alternate location. Dr. Schuster made excuses for why no plans have been developed yet but parents did not back off.
  • Board Action Taken:
    • Approved $129,512 in baseboard and drywall removal and replacement. (Cost could go up if more mold is discovered.)
    • Approved $255,000 in duct cleaning.
    • Dr. Schuster is to formulate a plan to have students attend school at an alternate location and to bring a recommendation back to them as quickly as possible.  The option they asked her to focus on was split shifts at Clarendon Hills Middle School.  
    • Board Member Clarin asked for daily updates. We thank him for that.

So now all parents, students, teachers and staff can do is wait.  We must wait to see how long the work actually takes before we know if HMS will open next Wednesday.  We must wait while Dr. Schuster finally puts together a back up plan to relocate our students to another building so that school can resume possibly earlier than next Monday. We must wait for her daily updates that Mr. Clarin asked for.  We must wait to see if a second board meeting is scheduled.  And since, as we are writing this post it is snowing outside, and the polar vortex is set to return tomorrow, we must wait to see if any new damage occurs if more pipes burst or the roof leaks continue.  We all need to cross our fingers and hope that there will be no glitches in the work schedule approved tonight, or the discovery of more mold throughout HMS, as the $400,000 in remediation work takes place.

Stay tuned......

Text of  Dr. Schuster's email to parents sent at 12:13 a.m. on 1/21/14:

anuary 20, 2014

Dear District 181 Community,

This is a brief update on the latest news regarding Hinsdale Middle School and the emergency Board meeting that took place this evening. A comprehensive Board Summary and much more detail will be forthcoming.

The Board of Education unanimously approved two motions (Vote 7-0). The motions authorize SERVPRO to:
  • Remove the cove base (baseboards) and lower portions of drywall throughout the building, seal the area with microbial sealer, and install a new cove base at a cost of $129,512; and
  • Conduct ductwork cleaning at a cost of $255,000.
The Board Summary (to be emailed and posted online January 21) will help to outline the reasons for this work and the extensive deliberation that took place during the three-hour emergency Board meeting.

In regard to the impact of these Board approvals for HMS families and staff, students will not be in attendance on Tuesday and Wednesday as previously announced so that SERVPRO can continue their work, begin baseboard removal, and additional testing can be conducted as needed. Also important to note is that the building will be closed through at least Tuesday of next week. However, the administration, per a request from the Board, is investigating the possibility of a split schedule or alternating schedule with Clarendon Hills Middle School. If such a possibility is a viable option, classes could resume later this week, but would take place at Clarendon Hills Middle School.

Communication to HMS families and staff will continue on a daily basis via email; new posts will continue to be made to the HMS Facility Updates webpage, as well.


Dr. Renée Schuster


Anonymous said...

I was in the audience last night. I was glad to see the Elm gym packed with parents and teachers. I could not believe that Dr. Schuster has not yet developed a plan to have our students attend CHMS in split shifts. What the hell has she been doing for 2 weeks? I'm glad one parent called her out on the rumors that she left town during the last 2 weeks. Notice how she didn't answer the question about whether she had and made it seem like she's been around the whole time by saying she'd been at HMS and was seen by teachers. What a crock. I've spoken to teachers who are disgusted with her and know she didn't answer the question because the speculation is true. The board needs to get to the bottom of this. She should have been working tireless to get a split shift schedule in place for this week. No excuses!

Anonymous said...

Looks like the polar vortex has returned and if my roof is any indication, there must be a boatload of new snow covering the roof at HMS. Where's it going to go when the snow melts? Right down the holes that haven't been found or fixed. Schuster better get over there and climb onto the roof with a shovel and help everyone get the snow removed now!

Anonymous said...

Dear D181 Board Members,

Although I wasn't able to attend last nights meeting, I did listen online. I was impressed with what the experts had to say and their plan However, I am thoroughly frustrated with the administration and their lack of forthrightness and mismanagement regarding the mold situation. This isn't something new. Granted the pipes breaking added to the dilemma, but they administration new about mold before and failed to address the situation.

That being said, my main concern is getting the HMS kids back to school. I have an 8th grader and This is completely unacceptable to have him sitting at home while the rest of the district is in full swing. I don't understand why the administration didn't come to the meeting tonight with a plan of action to set up an alternative schedule at CHMS. That is the only logical and viable alternative. Why wait until next week to send the HMS kids to CHMS? I highly urge the board to pressure the administration to have a plan of action ready for the board to vote on today and get our kids back to school by Thursday.

How does the administration plan to make up these days? Our son is in 8th grade and we are moving June 5th. If school isn't completed by that date, how does that affect him graduating? If we aren't here, how can he finish the school year? On top of us moving, camps have already been paid for and start as early as June 8th. We aren't the only family with plans in place. How will this be addressed..

The bottom line is the kids need to get back to school and a wait and see attitude is not acceptable. Keep in mind that HMS could potentially reopen Wednesday or Thursday and that is with no other hidden issues. Best case scenario. What if it takes longer? Please don't wait on this. Get a plan in place and get these kids back in class immediately.

I know that the board works hard and this is a difficult situation. We appreciate all of your efforts. Just please don't let the administration drag their feet on this.

I encourage all HMS parents to insist that the D181 board and the administration get our kids back in the classroom this week.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

I also realize this is a difficult situation. But...Dr. Shuster and the administration should have had/or at least already started formulating an alternative plan. This wait and see approach on everything (test scores, unproven curriculum, now this) is not what this community wants. How many situations does it take for people to realize we need new leadership. We need someone who is truly vested in our community, who geniunely listens to parents and teachers, and wants to prepare our children for middle and highschool. Instead we have a "coaster".

Anonymous said...

I'm an HMS parent and I have the following questions: how is it Dr. Schuster can fly back to Hinsdale yesterday, sit with the BOE in front of cameras like she's in control of the mold situation, lie that she has met with teachers, and most importantly, have no alternative plan for our kids and get away with this in the eyes of Marty Turek? How about you, Mr. Clarin? You have spent many hours of your time at HMS during the past two weeks: has it crossed your mind that the highly paid employee who reports to you and six others is nowhere to be found? This is acceptable to you? Did you notice how Schuster couldn't remember the name of the hotel she and her underlings were considering for an alternative? Did you see how she has obviously pushed off her responsibility as a leader to Kevin Russell, who is a co-supervisor of curriculum, not scheduling. Schuster should have been working night and day on an alternative schedule for our kids to go to CHMS instead of showing up in the nick of time empty handed. She is a snake in the grass that needs to be caught and shipped to the AZ desert.

Anonymous said...

Another board meeting has been called for 7:30 at Elm tonight (Tuesday, 1-21). From Dr. Schuster's e-mail.

Dear District 181 Community,

The District 181 Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday, January 21 (7:30 p.m.) at Elm School for the purpose of deciding the instructional plan for Hinsdale Middle School students due to the building’s closure. The Board will be presented with several options to consider, pending certification from the Regional Office of Education and approval by the State Superintendent. More information about these options will be posted on BoardDocs prior to the start of the meeting.

The agenda will include an opportunity for public comment. The meeting audio and agenda will be available through the District website at www.d181.org > Board of Education.

In considering the calendar for the school year, the Board of Education will have several options. District leaders will present those options to the Board at a future meeting. HMS families and staff should be aware that previously scheduled non-attendance days may be recommended as attendance days for HMS to offset missed school days.