Julian Curtiss School to reopen on Wednesday

UPDATED TUESDAY 3:45 P.M. — After two unexpected days off for students due to water damage to classrooms, Julian Curtiss School (JCS) was set to reopen Wednesday morning.

The district said on Tuesday afternoon that surface and airborne environmental testing conducted on Monday concluded that the school is safe for occupancy. Work will now take place over the upcoming winter recess to fix the impacted classrooms which will not be used by students for time being.

According to the district, the cause of the closure was a ruptured coil in a classroom radiator. It was initially believed that the issue was a water main break, however, upon inspection of the school, the source was determined to be a radiator located in a second floor, fifth grade classroom.

Students from the two impacted classrooms will be relocated within the building for the near future. Abatement work is scheduled for the district’s winter recess in February. Restoration work will be scheduled after the abatement is completed. The district said on Tuesday that the tentative timeframe is to have the restoration work completed by early March but added, “Depending on the extent of work required once abatement has occurred, the project completion date may be altered.”

“The affected classrooms will be secured, with access restricted and permitted only for authorized personnel,” the district said in a press release on Tuesday. “Signs will be clearly posted. Negative pressure will be created in the rooms with HEPA filters. Weekly air monitoring and visual inspections will occur for asbestos and mold for the duration of the project.”

The ruptured coil in the fifth grade room, which is formally known as classroom 27, was discovered by JCS custodial staff upon opening school Monday morning. The district said that all schools had been checked on Friday and Saturday for any potential problems after Friday’s snowstorm. The coil rupture at JCS is thought to have occurred some time late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Town Emergency Management Director Daniel Warzoha has said that it’s belived the extreme cold played a part in the ruptured coil (see related story on page one).

The ruptured coil released water and steam into the room 27, which then leaked through to the first grade classroom, known as room nine, below it and then spread to the main office and principal’s office adjacent to the classroom on the first floor.

The district’s facilities staff was on hand immediately to begin clean up. On Monday, the district said that the town’s building department and the district’s contracted environmental hygienist were also on site early Monday morning to begin an immediate assessment of the extent of the water damage, and to begin planning for repair.

While the repairs are underway, the fifth graders in classroom 27 will be relocated to classroom 29, displacing the English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction that is currently held in there. ESL staff will then be relocated to the school’s media center. Instruction for ESL students will take place in the classrooms and in the media center.

Addtionally, the first graders in classroom 9 will be relocated to classroom 19, displacing the world language teachers’ office space. This will not impact instruction howerverm and the office space will be temporarily relocated to allocated space in the cafeteria. The main office will also be temporarily relocated to the principal’s office.

But while the school is reopening, there could be additional impact for JCS students because, under state law, students are required to complete 180 days for school before June 30 and this comes on the heels of two snow days already. There are five days built into the school calandar to allow for emergency closures so if there are no more than one cancellations this school year then there will be no need for the students to make up any time. However, with bitter cold and bad weather having become the norm in recent weeks and many weeks of winter left to go, the possibility is very real that there will have to be days added for JCS students.

No decisions are being made immediately however and both teachers and parents will be consulted if anything needs to be done.

“If additional closures are required and Julian Curtiss — or if all schools — exceed the five days built in, then, as the calendar states, the make-up days ‘…will be taken from either the remaining days in June or from the spring recess in April. Please plan accordingly,’” the district said in the Tuesday press release. “Superintendent William McKersie and Principal Patricia McGuire will make the final decision on how lost schools days at Julian Curtiss will be made up, but they will confer with the GEA President and PTA Co-Presidents.”

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