Expensive mistake: School board balks at ‘staggering’ cost of mold cleanup

Expensive mistake: School board balks at ‘staggering’ cost of mold cleanup

School board balks at cost of ‘staggering’ mold cleanup

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Members of the North Providence School Committee expressed concerns last week regarding the huge price tag for removing mold from the Dr. Edward A. Ricci Middle School in September.

Surface mold that developed in classrooms due to elevated humidity levels at the end of summer delayed the start of school for Ricci students, who returned to school a week later than the rest of the district. Interim Supt. Robert O’Brien, pictured, said the cost of cleaning out the mold totaled $341,000, calling the number “staggering.”

O’Brien told the School Committee that the cost was high due to the fact that the entire building had to be cleaned “from top to bottom in a one-week period in order to open school. The crews were working double shifts and we had to pay prevailing wages.”

“We were looking at $50 to $75 dollars an hour due to prevailing wages,” he added. “As you can see there was a lot of work to do there. They had to do the floors, walls, desks, ceilings and entire ventilation system. It took a lot of time to go into every single room.”

School Committee member Steven Andreozzi asked how mold developed without anyone noticing, as staff members were in and out of the facility leading up to the start of school. O’Brien said all of the classrooms had been properly cleaned out and closed up before the mold developed, but unusually high humidity levels and the lack of air circulation allowed the mold to build up on the walls. The problem was not unique to North Providence, occurring around the state in other districts such as North Kingston, where mold mitigation will cost the district approximately $400,000 for one elementary school.

Andreozzi also expressed concern with the fact that the entire school had to be cleaned out, versus only the affected areas. O’Brien said he visited the school with maintenance staff, insurance representatives, a testing company and the cleaning company. Upon their recommendation, O’Brien agreed to clean out the entire building.

“It was the only way to ensure that it didn’t develop elsewhere,” he said, adding that mold was identified in 18 classrooms but that the major concern was the ventilation system that connects all of the school spaces. The mold developed in the half of the building that does not have air conditioning.

“I didn’t want to be coming back to this committee a week later to report that I found mold in another classroom,” O’Brien said. “That’s why I had them test all of the schools and clean out the ventilation system.”

Andreozzi also asked how the cost estimate of mitigation rose to $341,000 from the initial estimate of $200,000, to which O’Brien responded that the initial estimate did not include cleaning the ventilation system.

“It could have been a million and we would have paid it?” asked School Committee member Stephen Palmieri. “There are janitors there every day. I find it hard to believe no one was in those rooms for weeks and weeks at a time.”

“Are we looking at another $350,000 to clean mold again if we have another summer like this next year?” Andreozzi asked.

O’Brien said next year, classroom doors will be left open after the rooms are cleaned out, and that fans will be placed in the corridors to circulate the air.

The only long-term preventative solution would be to install a whole-school dehumidifier, which O’Brien said would cost the district “a quarter of a million dollars or more.”

“Perhaps we will be able to fund this with our budget, but this cannot happen again in any of the schools,” said School Committee member Roderick Da Silva. “It’s a very expensive mistake.”

Comments

Linda Giorgio is clueless!!!The Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center had been the model for years before she and the mayor took over. The prior physician, Dr. John Stoukides, is one of the best geriatric doctors in the state . My mother used to attend all her doctor’s appointments there until the mayor forced him out leaving 100’s of his senior patients behind. While seniors have been taken care of and seen by Dr. Stoukides for years, the town with their take-over didn’t think of the impact it would have on the seniors by losing their trusted doctor. So Linda, this is far from a new concept. You and the town officials deserve no accolades for disrupting so many seniors medical care at this stage in their lives.
Additionally, this has taken place and encouraged by Councilman Steven Delorenzo, as he stands by looking for accolades, as though disrupting the medical services of our seniors and treating them as political pawns is something to be proud of!
The center had a doctor on sight for over 30 years . Dr. Stoukides had been there for over 25 years. Under the direction of Corinne Russo, the National Council on Aging gave the SMSC an award for the insight health clinic concept. The model was used throughout the entire country . This center just changed the doctor and wants credit. How disingenuous!!!
*Why was there not a login to post under the senior center article?