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Mold Problems Delay Opening of School in Pomfret



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pomfret — A mold problem at Prosper Valley School has delayed the school’s opening, and elementary students from Pomfret and Bridgewater instead will begin their school year at Woodstock Elementary School, about 2½ miles away, next week.

The mold, Aspergillus, is commonly found in low concentrations in the atmosphere, and is not toxic, but it can cause health problems for those with asthma, lung problems, allergies or compromised immune systems.

“Safety of our students and staff is our first priority and so the building with be closed until a comprehensive solution to the problem can be implemented,” Superintendent Mary Beth Banios said in a statement announcing the news.

Woodstock Elementary will open today, as originally planned, but the Prosper Valley students will not join the Woodstock students in the building until Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The problem was identified a month ago, but it was hoped that the mold could be cleaned out by the start of the school year, Banios said in an email to the Valley News on Tuesday afternoon.

“The mold was discovered in the school’s gymnasium at the end of July,” she said. “Fans were deployed through the building along with a few humidifiers and the gym was washed down with a bleach solution.”

During that effort, workers found mold in several classrooms, leading the district to hire a contractor with mold remediation experience to do a thorough cleaning, which was finished on Aug. 18.

“Following the deep clean, the air quality was tested and the results of the air quality testing became available over the weekend; these tests showed unacceptable levels of mold spores continued to exist in the building,” Banios said.

On Monday morning, staff decided that the school could not be opened on time, and by that afternoon, administrators were contacting parents and working on alternative plans.

The school name was changed from the Pomfret School to the Prosper Valley School in 2015, when it began serving students who had previously attended the Bridgewater Village School, which was closed at that time.

Banios said the building has struggled with excessive moisture for year, because it “was constructed on a slab without a vapor barrier. … The particularly hot and humid summer with a closed building exacerbated the situation. Work is underway to identify a comprehensive solution to this facility issue.”

School staff will be prepared to resolve any transportation issues, according to Rayna Bishop, who works as Banios’ administrative assistant in the central office of the Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District.

“I spoke with the bus company, Butler’s Bus Service, this morning and we went over every bus route together to identify areas that could potentially require revisions,” Bishop said.

She said that because the two schools are only about five minutes apart from each other, she did not anticipate any major problems.

Staff and teachers from both schools are working to prepare Woodstock Elementary to handle the incoming Prosper Valley students and staff, according to the statement.

Last year, Prosper Valley had 99 students, and Woodstock Elementary had 196, according to enrollment figures from the Vermont Agency of Education.

Banios said community members are working to turn the problem “into a positive opportunity to continue to build collaborative learning opportunities between the two student bodies.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.