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Stevens High Inspection Gives All Clear

Student’s Email Prompted Probe Of Renovation by N.H. Inspector

Claremont — The state Department of Labor will issue a report on an inspection done Friday of the Stevens High School renovation construction site that was prompted by complaints from a student about dust, noise and other hazardous conditions.

Michelle Small with the Department of Labor declined to provide details about the inspection or the report Monday, which she said has not been completed. Small said she could not discuss the inspection until the report was finalized.

Stevens senior Riley Hentschel forwarded a copy of an email to the Valley News last week that he sent to the Department of Labor with a long list of complaints about the learning environment on the ground floor of the school. Several classrooms have been renovated, though the work in the basement area has not been completed. Students moved back into the basement area of the school March 3 after winter break and demolition has begun on the first floor.

“Both teachers and students have complained of headaches from chemical/dust inhalation and loud noises due to lack of soundproof walls,” Hentschel wrote. “During class/work time, there is use of jackhammers right outside classrooms. The students and teachers are working in a construction site. ”

Hentschel also alleged there are exposed pipes and wires in almost every temporary classroom, dust covering chairs, floors and other furniture and no HEPA (high–efficiency particulate absorption) filters.

“I truly hope that you understand the unhealthy environment that staff is working in and students are learning in,” Hentschel concluded in his email to the Department of Labor.

Bobby Allen, superintendent of the project for the construction manager Trumbull-Nelson, said Monday that he was on-site during the inspection and was not given any direct orders by the state inspector.

Allen also said that Hentschel’s statement that “Danger: Asbestos” signs are in a blocked off hallway that students and teachers need to access is inaccurate. The asbestos abatement area is inaccessible to students and teachers, Allen said.

Dave Putnam, a member of the School Board and Chairman of the Stevens Renovation Committee, and Andy LaFreniere, also on the committee, said in an email Monday that the state inspector “closed out the inspection and did not mention anything that caused concern.”

“A great number of safeguards are in place, more is being worked on, and air quality professionals along with local building and safety officials have been on site throughout the process for regularly scheduled inspections,” the committee members wrote. They also said Trumbull-Nelson demonstrated the use of HEPA filters during the inspection.

Hentschel said in his email that a member of the Stevens Alumni Association with a background in engineering presented a report to the renovation committee in February stating he had not seen any HEPA filters or exhaust fans in the construction area. Putnam said he does not recall any such presentation to the committee.

Envirovantage, the company that is doing demolition and asbestos removal, is meeting all state requirements for “current precautions,” the committee members said, but the company will nevertheless add more HEPA units.

Additional steps taken by Trumbull-Nelson to maintain a safe learning environment include doing heavy demolition and asbestos abatement when school is not in session and increasing the frequency of mopping to keep the dust down.

Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said he hopes anyone with concerns about the work site continue to speak out and bring them to the attention of Stevens Principal Frank Sprague so they can be addressed.

“The objective has always been to protect the learning environment ,” McGoodwin said.

Attempts to contact Hentschel Monday were unsuccessful.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.