READFIELD — The Regional School Unit 38 school board’s Facilities Committee chose on Wednesday not to recommend the closure of Manchester Elementary School after continued concerns about the school’s air quality.

The committee instead decided to continue to follow the recommendations of Air Quality Management Services after the latest problem — concern about carbon dioxide levels in a fourth-grade classroom.

During Wednesday’s committee meeting, Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said her recommendation, and that of Principal Janet Delmar, was not to close the school.

“I don’t feel there is a need (to close it), and I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the teachers and staff,” Wolfrom said.

The latest trouble for the 65-year-old school began March 29 when a fourth-grade teacher complained of a smell in her classroom. A check of the room yielded no obvious cause, though Wolfrom said a pair of wet boots was found in the corner of the room where the smell was coming from.

The room’s carpet and air quality were tested, and after complaints of headaches by the teacher, the decision was made also to test the room’s carbon dioxide levels. The report from Air Quality Management showed no mold problem in the carpet or classroom in general and that the carbon dioxide levels did not present a safety hazard.


Because of the teacher’s discomfort, however, her students were relocated April 10 to the art room, and Wolfrom said the plan is for them to remain there until the school year ends.

The formal report, which was given to parents April 10, showed carbon dioxide levels well below OSHA standards but slightly above the no-longer-used American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers comfort standards. The report recommended the windows be kept open in the affected classroom to promote increased ventilation, and the report stated a local air-exchange unit could be installed to address any ventilation problem within the classroom.

Wolfrom said the district is looking into buying a unit. Curt Morse, the district’s facilities director, said the remainder of the school’s carbon dioxide levels will be tested April 24 when students return from spring vacation.

“We have the safety of our students and staff as our highest concern,” Wolfrom said last week. “We have asked experts for their advice, and we’re confident that we are following the recommendations of those experts.”

Wolfrom said she hasn’t heard from any parents wanting the school to be closed, and School Board Chairwoman Terry Watson and the committee agreed that it would be a different discussion if the recommendation was to close the school.

“We would do it if we felt there was a safety or health hazard,” Watson said.


The decision won’t sit well with the local teachers union. Director Joan Morin said the union’s position is that there is great concern about whether the building is safe, and she sent Wolfrom a letter last week asking that the school be closed for the remainder of the school year.

“Clearly there is a problem in the school and (nobody) is finding the real problem as to why the building is sick,” Morin said in an interview last week. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Wolfrom said the district has options if relocating students is deemed necessary. The pre-kindergarten program would move to the bus garage, while the students in kindergarten through grade 2 would move to Readfield Elementary. The remaining students — in grades 3, 4 and 5 — would go to Maranacook Community Middle School.

Instead, the district plans to have the school thoroughly cleaned over the summer and will address any new problems that come up at that time. Board member Gary Carr said the district needs to think about the long-term future and about closing and replacing “these old buildings.”

The school first came under the scrutiny of parents in January after a potential mold problem was reported in late October. Air quality tests, thorough cleaning, the remediation of the basement, stage area and several classrooms alleviated much of the concern about a potential mold problem at the school.

Parents and the district agreed that any student presenting any symptoms, such as headaches or sore throats, should be reported to the school nurse, who then would notify Delmar and the district. Wolfrom and Delmar said the nurse hasn’t reported any sick children related to the suspected problem in the fourth-grade classroom.


The superintendent said the major concern was always about the safety of the students and staff, which is why the district immediately went to the experts and have acted on their recommendations.

“We did what we needed to do, and we did it quickly,” Wolfrom said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: