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In A Nutshell: Here’s What Happened At Today’s Special Selectmen’s Meeting

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Feb 242014
 

Goldblatt and Carangelo (file photo)

Goldblatt and Carangelo (file photo)

I was hoping to walk away from today’s special meeting of the Board of Selectmen with a complete spreadsheet of tasks and costs to get Peck Place School back up and running, but it may have to wait until sometime after tonight’s Board of Finance meeting (7:30 p.m.)

Nearly $2 million  is being requested to do all the necessary work, including replacing floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, cabinetry, painting, lighting, plumbing etc. and it is not something the members of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), Board of Education (BOE) or later, the Board of Finance (BOF) take lightly.

The BOS has been dealing with this issue for more than a month and the BOE has been on it since Feb. 6, when a water pipe burst and caused damage – some major – to 12 rooms at the elementary school.

Everything moved quickly from that day forward, the children were immediately split up and placed in the two other elementary schools so their learning process would not be interrupted. Then they were moved to the YALE Campus off of Marsh Hill Road, and to their credit the teachers and children adjusted to their new situations flawlessly. Most of the kids even enjoyed the adventure.

First Selectman Jim Zeoli commended the BOS for doing their due diligence and bringing their thoughts and suggestions to the table.

In a nutshell, ALL of the numbers and specifics did not come out as many of Orange Live’s readers had hoped, but I can give you the answers to some questions that you’ve asked.

Insurance will cover just the Phase 1 where damage occurred

BOE Business Director Kevin McNabola said the amount is in the six figures, but it will not ALL be covered (This could mean $100,000 to $900,000) the exact amount of reimbursement is unknown.

Air Quality – there have been 153 air quality tests done and 34 of those were specifically  for mold.

Why so expensive – The cost to build a new school would be about $300 per square foot. The refurbishing of the existing Peck Place School averages $32 per square foot.

Why not put jobs out for bid – Selectman Mitch Goldblatt said in no uncertain terms that he did not feel it was fair that one general contractor who helped the school out when it was in peril, is getting the lions share of the work. He insisted that some of the work, such as painting, should be bid out to try to find a lower cost.

Zeoli said The BOE acknowledged there are things, like cabinetry, that can be bid out, but the process has to move forward in a continuous flow so it will be done in time.

After much discussion, Selectman John Carangelo said these are extenuating circumstances so he had to disagree with Goldblatt, and that if the BOE could bid out for some work, that would be good.

Selectman Ken Lenz said he didn’t want to delay school because they put jobs out to bid to save 5% on the cost (ballpark figure).

Timeline – Selectman Ralph Okenquist said he would like to see a specific timeline showing a schedule of all the work, including overlaps in certain projects, not to exceed the total recommended cost. He said there are only 4 months and 3 weeks left before the students would need to return to the school and if there is no schedule, they would be looking at problems.

Difference in the two Phases — 

   Phase 1 is the area affected by the water — asbestos abatement has been done.

Phase 2 is all the other rooms, store rooms, etc.

Lighting — There is an estimated $20,000 difference between getting new lights and revamping the rooms. The UI offers incentives and these could possibly save the town up to 50% on costs.

Penalties — Carangelo said there should be some sort of clause included in the contract paperwork finning the vendors if the work is not completed on time.

The BOS voted to recommend the projects to the BOF so work on Peck Place can commence with the exception of cabinetry and univentilators, which will go out to bid.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the BOF meets at Town Hall.

The Board will review and decide if they will approve it.

If they do, the money would come out of general fund so the BOE can move forward with the work.

Then the BOF can decide the wisest way to fund the project (bonding, etc.)

Peck Place Update: Congratulations, Your Kids Are Going To Yale

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Jan 112014
 

yale west campusThis past week school administrators, students, teachers and parents survived the ultimate challenge — What do you do when there is a catastrophic event in your school?

For Supt. Lynn McMullin the nightmare began with a phone call at 7:15 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6. Peck Place School had flooded due to the toll the freezing weather had on water pipes.

The majority of Orange Live’s readers were satisfied with the spur-of-the-moment decisions the school administrators made so students wouldn’t have to miss any class time.

Some parents have been more critical, sending angry e-mails to the school decision-makers and Orange Live heard just a few unkind comments about the event that followed the flooding.

From my experience, I have to say that McMullin, Mike Luzzi and the others have worked their [butts] off this week. Constantly thinking of ways to take care of the children — their first priority; posting updates on the school website and sending out e-mail blasts with any new information; and handling parents concerns the very best they can.

All of their hard work led to this decision: All Peck Place School Students will go to Yale.

I contacted Mrs. McMullin for new information and she referred me to the website, stating it was all there for everyone to see. And I must say, the notices (there are 3) are so clear and detailed that I don’t really see what else can be said.

Here is the complete Friday Notice to Peck Place Parents regarding the situation:

 Friday, January 10, 2014

Dear Peck Place Community,

I’m happy to update you about the latest developments for the Peck Place school building and especially our plans for your children.

Congratulations! Your children have all been accepted to Yale!

At a second emergency Board of Education meeting last evening, the Board authorized Peck’s move into a clean, new space at the Yale West Campus in Orange. (Below, I will explain the specific rationale for this decision.) The move will happen as soon as possible, but there are a few hurdles we still need to overcome. Contractual details for the use of the space need to be finalized, and Yale needs to remove all of the office-style cubicles and help us reconfigure the space into classrooms. Then, we will need to move Peck’s furniture, records, equipment (such as copiers and office computers), and supplies over. We are moving as rapidly as we possibly can, but there are a lot of details that need to be worked out — from thinking through the protocols for loading and unloading buses — to how the teachers and kids will move throughout building (marking the exits, bathrooms, etc.) — to how we can accommodate for students with special needs — to figuring out lunch, recess, and specials schedules.

This is very good news, however! The Peck teachers will soon be with their own students, and the Peck community will all be in one place very soon. The timeline is this: as soon as we possibly can. I ask that you trust Eric, his office staff and teachers, and his colleagues (Colleen Murray, Steve Bergin, Kai Byrd, and Mike Gray) to figure out all of the logistics for this move. Doing it once and meticulously is our primary concern. At some point next week, we may even ask for volunteers to help with the relocation. In addition, Eric will be reaching out to the PTO for support with some needs.

Upcoming Events:

1. Friday, January 10th 9:30 a.m.: Eric and others are walking the very large space to map out the rearrangement of partitions we need to turn the building into a school. Matt Bruder, our Tech Admin, is there as well to plan for technology access.

2. Friday, January 10th 11:00a.m.: Meeting with News 12.

3. Friday, January 10th 2:00 p.m.: The Peck teachers are being released from Race Brook and Turkey Hill and will meet Eric at the Yale West Campus building to help Eric with the lay-out and logistics and to become acclimated with the space.

4. Monday, January 13th: 6:00 p.m.: there will be a special meeting for parents upstairs at MLT. This will be a question and answer session. If you know your questions now, or think of them over the weekend, please email your questions to peckismovingtoyalewest@orange-ed.org. Eric is going ‘off-the-grid’ for a short while, so that he can begin the renovation of the space.

You will not receive an answer to your email, but your question will be answered on Monday night and then again in the Q’s and A’s which will be emailed and posted to our webpage.

5. Monday, January 13th: 7:30 p.m.: Regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.

6. An Open House at the Yale West Haven building: TBA

7. An Orientation for the kids: TBA

The Rationale for the Yale West Campus Decision:

Wednesday and Thursday as we began to look for new spaces, we made many phone calls. We explored suggestions about the spaces in local congregations, empty retail space on the Post Road, closed schools in other districts, and so on. (Many people immediately thought of Sandy Hook’s move into another closed school, but keep in mind that move took unlimited resources and over three weeks to accomplish.) We wanted something that would work for us sooner, rather than later, because the current situation we have, while working and even somewhat fun, is going to get ‘old’ really quickly.

Some places we called told us they couldn’t accommodate us for various reasons. We have to respect that. Other places were extremely open and helpful and invited us to come right in to look at what they could offer us.

These are the criteria we considered as we went from site to site:

 Location in or very near Orange

 Large enough to house all of Peck (or two spaces that could house at least ½. This was somewhat important to limit the number of places parents might need to pick-up their children around town.

 Fitted with fire alarms, phone service, and other communication and safety features

 Handicap accessible

 Clean, safe, and secure (not needing extensive or time-consuming renovation)

 Bus drop-off and pick-up that was safe and parent access, with parking

 Spaces for Special Education, school psychologist, and Tier I and II support services

 Bathrooms

 Playground and space for 21st Century

 Kitchen and cafeteria

 

You’ll be wondering why we didn’t choose one or another site, so I will provide some examples. As I said, the people in all of the spaces we saw were truly open and willing to help us in any way possible. We looked at the classroom spaces in the Greek Orthodox Church on Race Brook. The space was light and bright and had a kitchen and cafeteria space, but the classrooms were too small for our students and teachers to set-up shop. We couldn’t envision 150 students (½ of our Peck kids) in the space. We also looked at the Congregational Church across the street from the MLT. There the four or possibly five classrooms were larger, but the bathrooms were unisex, on a different floor, and there was no Internet service which would make daily communications difficult. One final example is our trip to the Hubble property. Again, wonderful people, but the building they could offer us was under construction in the lobby and on the first floor, and the rooms available were former yoga studios in the basement and lined floor-to-ceiling with mirrors. The road was too narrow to envision two buses safely passing each other on the way in and out.

We did choose carefully; and ultimately we decided on the Yale West Haven Campus because it met most of our criteria. We can house the entire school, thereby reuniting Eric, the teachers, and students. The drop-off and pick-up is perfect (I’m sure the Orange Police will assist with the intersection.) The building is incredibly secure, and we can set up our security desk in the entrance. We’ll have computer lab set-ups, and we can bring the laptop carts, the copiers, our office equipment, and so on. There are many push-out spaces for tutoring and Special Education. The draw-backs are important, but we can overcome them:

1. There is no gym or playground, so we will need to ‘manufacture’ exercise space within the building. There are beautiful walking trails outside.

2. There is no kitchen. There are too many federal regulations for me to go into here, but this won’t be a simple solution. We can have milk delivered to refrigerators in the building. We can deliver cold, boxed lunches to our free-and-reduced students and provide extras every day for kids who forget their lunches. But we may need to ask students and staff pack lunches and then supplement with deliveries on special days. Please be patient while we try to work this out. We can create a cafeteria space, so kids don’t eat at their desks, but there is no kitchen.

3. There is no intercom. However, we will install a portable solution and have already started working on it.

About the Peck Facility:

I will send another letter with more specific details, but the facility will be completely closed and off-limits within a day or two. We are working on the remediation of Peck very quickly, but as safely as possible. There is a State licensed hygienist assigned to us. An abatement means we are sealing off the building completely, and an abatement contractor with the correct licensing will be removing all of the floor tiles and the mastic which adheres them to the subflooring. (Remember the mastic is the issue, not the tiles). I will soon send out the official notice, but please understand no one under the age of 18 is allowed on the Peck Place property. If you see our custodians, Mike Luzzi, Matt Bruder, Eric, me, or our teachers coming and going over the next few days, it is only because the actual abatement has not begun and we are removing what we need for the new location.

When the kids return from Yale New Haven, they will return to a new, brighter, and cleaner environment!

Have a good weekend with your family.

Sincerely,

Lynn K. McMullin

Superintendent

 

Exclusive: Is Peck Place School Safe For Children To Return To Classes?

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Aug 272013
 

peck place schoolSupt. Lynn McMullin, Peck Place Principal Eric Carbone, Facilities Director Mike Luzzi, Business Administrator Kevin McNabola and a rep. from JP McGuire were available to answer questions Monday night at a special informational meeting for parents at Peck Place School regarding the presence of mold and the remediation actions taken over the past couple of months.

The parent turn-out was a little disappointing, considering the potential serious health hazards that mold could cause, especially to children with respiratory issues.

To start the evening off, a fact sheet with a timeline from Sept. 2012 through Monday Aug. 26, 2013 was distributed to every parent and discussed.

For those parents who could not attend the meeting, here is that timeline:

Sept. 2012 — After several humid days, custodial staff and teachers reported slick floors in rooms 102, 103, and 202. the Superintendent and Director of Facilities were notified and classroom fans were used to dry floors. The humidity subsided, conditions improved and the situation did ot return for the remainder of the fall.

Friday, May 31, 2013 — After a series of humid days and with heavy volume of student and parent traffic in rooms on Travel Agency Day, slick floors were observed in rooms 102, 103, and 303. The Superintendent and Director of Facilities were notified and classroom fans and dehumidifiers were used to dry floors. After the humidity subsided floors dried and the issue was resolved for the remainder of the school year.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 — Facility Support Services, LLC conducted air quality tests in rooms 101, 102, 103, 301, 302, & 303, as well as outside in the halls near rooms 401 and 203.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 — A letter was communicated to parents with the results of the tests indicating that the air quality and mold counts in these classrooms fell well below the outside air.

Friday, July 5, 2013 — A member of the custodial staff brought to my attention suspicious spots in several classrooms in the school. this came after a serious of very humid days,. The spotting was evident on floors, chairs, rugs and waste paper baskets. There was also condensation on the floors in several rooms. The Superintendent and Director of Facilities were notified. In the subsequent days, Facility Support Services and JP McGuire were contacted for additional testing, professional assessment, and methods to remedy the situation.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 — A letter was communicated to parents and staff with the results of the recent tests indicating that the air quality and common mold counts in these classrooms was well above the outside air and remediation was necessary.

July 17 – Aug. 9, 2013 — JP McGuire cleaned all surfaces and furniture in classrooms with Benefect, shampooed rugs and used commercial dehumidifiers in classrooms.

Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 — Two meetings, one for staff and one for parents were scheduled with Facility Support Services, LLC and announced to the Peck community through e-mail, and the Orange community at large, through the webpage and social media.

Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 — Facility Support Services, LLC again conducted air quality tests.

Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 — Facility Support Services, LLC provided the results of the most recent tests. One classroom, Room 101 did not pass, JP McGuire was contracted to re-clean the room as well as remove ceiling tiles and insulation in the ceiling.

Thursday, Aug. 22 – 23, 2013 — JP McGuire re-cleaned room 101 and removed all ceiling tiles and insulation and repolcaed them with new tiles. Facility Support Services, LLC retested room 101, 102, and 103.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 — Facility Support Services, LLC reported that all three classrooms are now in the acceptable level.

—  —  —  —  —  —  —  •  —  —  —  —  —  —  •  —  —  —  —  —  —  —

What came out of this meeting was that the mold was caused by humidity. One of the problems was that somewhere along the line insulation was placed above the ceiling tiles (which is not supposed to be done) creating a greenhouse effect. The insulation has been removed and the tiles replaced.

Bushes that were planted close to the building have been cut back because they held the moisture in. Now there is enough room between the plantings and the building for someone to walk through the area.

Humid September days ahead will not help the situation, but JP McGuire has a plan.

Air conditioning, vented through the ceilings will pull humidity out of the rooms. Humidity gauges will be installed in the hallways outside the troubled rooms and monitored.

Dehumidifiers on timers will run in the classrooms after school until morning so when children arrive the rooms will be at a comfortable level.

If, for any reason the rooms have any air quality issues in spite of the administrator’s best efforts, classes will be moved to a place where the air is healthy.

Earlier this week two men walked the roof of Peck Place School and checked for any tares and possible leaks in the roofing materials and sealed them.

Next spring, the entire roof will be covered in tar and stone and sealed properly so there won’t be any water infiltration issues.

Parents who were present wanted assurance that the air quality in the school would be safe for their children when they return next week.

An air quality testing schedule will be set up and it will be sent to parents (as well as the results).

Teachers and Custodians will be hyper vigilant regarding any moisture issues in the classrooms and share that information with the principal.

Is there asbestos in the school? Yes. It is under the floor tiles and of no danger to anyone as it is not airborne. If the tiles are removed the particles would become airborne, but the facilities people are well aware of it and explained why they were not concerned about it, and no one else should be either.

In Orange the health and safety of the children is the number one priority. The administration will be open and honest with parents now and throughout the school year.

On a side note: One difficult decision that the Board of Education may have to mull over this year is whether or not to permit “food” parties in school. Just from the reaction of the dozen or so parents at this meeting, Supt. McMullin could tell that the rest of the parents in town will be split on whatever decision is made.