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Greenacres Parents Raise Questions About Mold at the 11-27 Board Meeting

questionmarkGreenacres parents received a letter about a finding of mold in the basement and classrooms at Greenacres Elementary School, just as the kids were being dismissed for Thanksgiving on Wednesday November 22, 2017.

The note explained that extensive testing of both the occupied and unoccupied portions of the building had been done on two dates in October and that mold had been found in the basement, Learning Resource Center, two classrooms and the Teacher's Lounge. The district said the mold would be remediated during the Thanksgiving Holiday and the school would be ready by the following Monday.

On the agenda for the Board of Education meeting for Monday night November 27 was a SQRA review for the proposed 2018 bond referendum that includes a large addition to Greenacres School, leaving much of the infrastructure of the old portion of the school intact.

Several Greenacres parents attended the School Board meeting and commented on the mold findings, questioned how the mold remediation would be done and asked how the school would be safeguarded in the future.

Michelle Sterling of 6 Brayton Road thanked the district for doing the mold testing. She said, "It is good to get the results. We have smelled it – there have been hunches.
My daughter is in one of the classes where the mold was found. We are looking forward to getting the new test results."

She said, "There is mold in the school. The kids are breathing in mold spores and it's not a good thing. I think we can all agree on that. I am not an expert in this area.
It would be good to see the 2015 testing that was done. I did not see it on the district website. Was there testing done between 2015 and now in the past 2 years? If there was, please release it so we can look at it."

She continued, "Because I am a lay person, it would be really helpful to have an expert come so that we can ask the expert about this report and about these results. I don't have a friend to go to who is an expert in this. What do the ranges mean? What does a moderate probability mean? That's open to interpretation. What do these tests really mean? To be honest, these are disconcerting. I don't want any kid to breathe in mold spores. They cause asthma."

Speaking of the future she said, "About the remedy. I know there are dehumidifiers running there now. So if we have had dehumidifiers and they are not working, if our remedy going forward is dehumidifiers is that a remedy? We are potentially spending millions of dollars renovating a moldy base."

Paulina Schwartz of Oakstwain Road said, "I served on the Greenacres Building Committee. We were told over and over again by John Trenholm that there was no mold. The results are very concerning. The committee would have liked to have had these results and perhaps asked for an expert to come in and tell us what it meant for Greenacres? Do we have a plan to test yearly? I read that spring is a better time for test. The humidity is very high in the building. Is there a long-term plan to deal with it? What we have done to this point has not been effective. I have a child in the class where the mold was found and it does concern me. I do hope there is a real plan for what we are going to do to stop this from happening again. This shouldn't happen again.

Patricia Schwartz of 25 Walworth Avenue expressed her "appreciation for the testing that has been done" However she said, "My neighbors hired outside experts and petitioned for this work to be done. It's frustrating because people who are paying their taxes had to spend their own money to make sure this got done."

About the renovation plan she said, "I would like to move forward in addressing the problem and make sure that the bond planning does not get derailed by these late in the game results that we could have addressed if the testing has been done earlier."

And concerning the remediation, she said, "The results have been shared with the Greenacres community. I would like to know more about what was done this past weekend. Some of the statements in the report were rather general. Such as, remove all paper products. One of the affected rooms was the art room which has a lot of paper products in it. Were people going through the paper sheet by sheet to look for mod? Or have large amounts of paper been removed? Was any wood or plaster removed? If mold was disrupted over the weekend, the spores could be in the air and our children are in the school."

She concluded, "What are the plans to retest? How are we going to address any recurrence?"

Responding to their comments, Board Presidents Bill Natbony said that the 2015 reports were available on the website. Stuart Mattey said the school would receive a thorough cleaning and would be actively monitored. He said more ventilation and dehumidifiers would be added to the basement to keep it "as dry as possible."

Highlighting the expense of maintaining the aging building, Dr. Hagerman shared that the air quality testing cost $15,000 in addition to lead testing and the installation of lead filters on the water fountains. He said, "We understand there needs to be a long term plan. We are going to have to replicate this at our other schools?" In response to the request for an expert they proposed that the PT Council hold a meeting on mold to inform the public.

The most recent renovation plan for the school calls for commercial dehumidifiers for the basement of the school and for removal of children from the lower level of the building. Portions of the foundation are dirt crawl spaces that generate humidity. It's not clear whether or not these new dehumidifiers will be any more effective than the present ones at decreasing the humidity in the building which was measured at about 65%, far higher than desirable ranges.

This is not the first time mold was found at Greenacres. Scarsdale10583 filed a FOIL request to find out more about the building history and we await the results. However, it appears that the high water table, moisture and humidity are breeding grounds for mold. The engineers have not offered evidence that the dehumidifiers can totally eradicate the mold from the building. With a $30 million renovation proposal speeding toward a bond referendum, the findings certainly raises questions about the future.

The Scarsdale Board of Education will hold a Public Forum on Monday, December 4 at 6:30 p.m. to hear comments from community groups and individuals on the proposed Bond Referendum scheduled for February 8, 2018, and the associated SEQR process. The Public Forum will take place at Scarsdale High School, 2 Brewster Road, in Room 170-172.

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