September 10, 2013 at 10:54 PM
MILLTOWN, NJ - The circumstances surrounding the temporary closure of Parkview School led to a special information session held at the beginning of Tuesday night's Milltown Board of Education Meeting. Upwards of 100 people attended the meeting, held at Kilmer School. The session was introduced by Board Of Education Vice-President Bill Petscavage, who then introduced Superintendent Stephanie Brown.
Brown described how quickly both the teachers at the school and the officials involved in addressing the emergency responded. Brown explained that teachers in some of the classrooms expressed concern Thursday afternoon, Sept. 5, and by the next day, an environmental consultant was brought in. Brown further explained how she, Parkview Principal Janet Ferlazzo, as well as numerous teachers from the school, all spent a good part of the weekend evaluating contingencies, arriving at the decision to accept the invitation from Our Lady Of Lourdes (OLOL) school to utilize their unused facilities, and commencing the process of moving the needed infrastructure required to support the majority of the Parkview studentsat OLOL for the duration of the needed closure for remediation and cleanup, all while only losing two days of classes.
Tim Popp was introduced to discuss the process of identifying the mold, determining its severity, and assessing what would be needed to remediate the situation. Popp is a representative of TTI Environmental, and will be acting as the supervising party during the cleanup, which will be handled by AllRisk. Popp explained that the mold outbreak could have been quite sudden in its severity, and likely could not have been prevented. Popp further explained that he has seen numerous outbreaks of mold this season as a result of the near record rainfall, as well as the heat and humidity of the summer.
It was also noted that there are no county or state requirements about examining school facilities for mold prior to the start of a school year. During a lively question and answer session between Popp, members of the board, and the attendees, Popp provided a rough estimate of three or four weeks to remediate, cleanup, and have Parkview ready to again accept students.
Questions were raised about the cost of the repairs, and Business Administrator Marasco indicated that hiring TTI Environmental would cost roughly $25,000, but that it is still too early to know for sure the total expense related to hiring AllRisk and the remediation and cleanup. Marasco further stated that an extensive review of the existing insurance policies is currently being undertaken to determine the coverage towards not only the cleanup and repairs, but also whether supplies that parents just purchased for their children's school year that now need to be disposed of would be covered and replaced.
Brown then spoke to the plan for the resumption of classes, to be held commencing Sept. 11 at OLOL. A key component of this plan had to do with the inability to provide lunch to students at present. Due to the limited space available at OLOL, there was no choice in the initial planning but to house the fourth-graders in the OLOL cafeteria. Because of this limitation, lunch cannot be served, and due to requirements of a school to only hold a full day of classes if they can provide lunch, there will be a need to have only half-day sessions during the time OLOL wil be in use. Brown empahasized that the situation is very fluid, and that all other options will be considered that might allow the cafeteria to be used for lunch, and therefore a full day schedule be resumed. It was also noted that the two Pre-K classes were going to be held daily at St. Paul's School until the cleanup is completed.
Concerns were expressed about the level of security at OLOL, and it was reiterated by a number of attendees that are familiar with OLOL that because OLOL school was open until recently, that all necessary security measures, including buzzers to be let in, security cameras, and phones in each classroom were available.
Brown also addressed concerns about child care related to parents who work full-time and are unable to be there to pick up their children every day on a half-day schedule, reiterating that plans are underway to have emergency child care be available at LOL until the normal school day ends for those that require it. It is also important to note that Brown as well as Ferlazzo emphasized that many of the initial steps are going to continue to be evaluated, and that where improvements and changes need to be made, they would be as nimble as needed to adjust to them.