State environmental inspectors are expected to study air quality at Kennedy School by the end of the month, to answer concerns and assertions from a district-appointed task force that the school might have problems with mold.
While the concerns initially have been debunked through testing by a private firm, the upcoming work of experts from the Kansas Department of Labor will be expected to confirm the school’s safe-for-instruction conditions.
It’s either that, or raise concerns about both the short- and long-term viability of a school targeted for consolidation within the next three to five years.
“We’re being extra cautious, doing another test,” said Scott Morgan, a member of the Lawrence school board and co-chairman of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force. “And we’ll respond accordingly.”
Members of a task force subcommittee filed a report last year detailing concerns about air quality at Kennedy. Among the concerns:
- A “noticeable” musty smell upon entering the school.
- “Noticeably discolored” floor air vents “that appear moldy.”
- Windows with leakage problems, some allowing water to run behind bookcases and to the floor.
- “Spongy” acoustic tiles present in one room.
“The district needs to develop a long-term plan for monitoring the indoor air quality of this school and remediating any problems that are detected,” the subcommittee said in a report to the full task force.
District officials then hired a private firm, META Consulting LLC to test the air both inside and outside the school, 1605 Davis Road. The firm concluded in October that the school had no problem and that there was no evidence of mold growing within the building.
“Laboratory results show that the mold spore count outdoors is about 10 times greater than the mold spore count indoors, which is considered to be within a normal range,” the firm concluded.
META Consulting did recommend removal of damp tiles and water-damaged carpets, and making other upgrades to prevent water from entering the school.
Those changes have been accomplished, with planning under way to make more significant repairs to the school’s roof to help prevent future water woes, said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer.
“There are ongoing roof issues — and with all the snow we’ll be finding more of those — but we think we’ve addressed the concerns,” Harwood said. “We don’t think there is a safety issue, but since (the state) said they’d come in, we will have them come in.”
The state’s testing will be conducted as members of the task force are mulling recommendations for the future of the district’s 15 elementary schools.
Talk so far includes recommending consolidation of Kennedy and New York schools within the next three to five years. Students from those schools would be transferred into a single school: either into a remodeled and expanded existing school or into a new school, possibly at the site of the former East Heights School.
Administrators and consultants are busy studying such possibilities before the task force’s next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. Recommendations are due to board members by the end of the month.