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Grandparent airs complaints about school’s ventilation


AYER — A Willard Street resident is worried about the young lungs of students at Ayer High School. Bert Gibson volunteers with the Parks Department’s basketball program, He raised a laundry list of concerns to the Board of Health regarding general ventilation issues he’s noticed at the school.

Gibson said he brought his concerns to the attention of the school administration in September. He said he received an e-mail in November that the matters were rectified, but still, Gibson said, numerous problems persist.

He said four cafeteria vents, a major exhaust fan in the gymnasium and the exhaust fans in all the hallways and ceilings are inoperable, and that there are no filters in place on the heating system for portions of the locker rooms. He said his daughter has to take extra asthma medication whenever she has to play sports inside the school.

But, beyond his child’s health concerns, Gibson, a former 22-year medical lab technician in the Army, said he’s concerned about the lack of ventilation in the face of the H1N1 flu virus.

“It’s the younger kids that are at risk right now,” Gibson said.

Despite Gibson’s concerns, H1N1 and other flu viruses spread mostly through direct contact and droplet transmission. Flu viruses my be transmitted through the air over short distances, but an August 2009 study by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota concluded there was no evidence that the viruses can travel through ventilation systems or over long distances.

Even so, Gibson offered to provide a tour to a Board member to see what he was talking about. Instead, the Board indicated they’d deploy their Nashoba Boards of Health agent to the school to investigate.

“We will certainly follow up on this tomorrow,” said Chairman Kidder, “this will be our top priority.”

“I have grandchildren who go to that school and I’m very concerned with anything that has to do with ventilation,” Kidder said, “The gym is named after my grandfather,” in reference to the late Paul K. McGuane, a 33-year member of the School Committee.

“This will be a priority, trust me,” said Kidder.

— Mary E. Arata