By Jon Bishop
HARVARD — Officials and administrators hosted parents at the Hildreth Elementary School library Dec. 4, offering information on and answering questions about mold in the kindergarten wing, an issue since the early 2000s.
Superintendent Linda Dwight, a former principal at Hildreth, said the School Committee believes that now is a “critical time” to support a full reconstruction or rebuild of the K-wing. The problem, she said, isn’t so much with the presence of mold — which, right now, is not a health issue — but with maintenance. There is also an issue with regulations, such as ADA compliance.
In 2003, when the Board of Health threatened to close the K-wing but then reconsidered, the board put in stipulations, one of which was not to break into the floor or walls, Dwight said. In 2005, the school district began quarterly air quality checks, the results of which have continued to be acceptable, she said.
Mark Force, director of maintenance for Harvard Public Schools, said that wiring and plumbing are bad.
“There’s a lot of underlying issues,” he said. “The systems are very old, and they’re tired.”
He and his staff “don’t know what’s behind the walls, because they can’t open them.”
Both the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen have signed off on the application for reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, or MSBA. According to Dwight, the application process will be completed by January, but the MSBA won’t announce which projects it has decided to fund until the fall.
Any reconstruction or rebuilding would likely begin in the summer of 2016, she said.
During that process, students would have to be relocated, and a possible option is modular classrooms. Contrary to what people might expect, “it’s not a negative to be (in one),” Dwight said, noting that they look similar to regular classrooms.
Parents and concerned citizens in attendance came ready with questions.
In response to Matthew Mostoller, who asked what the town has down to address the mold issue, Dwight said, “They really just sealed it off.”
School Committee Chairman SusanMary Redinger added, “I think the way to understand it is there is a hazard, but there’s no risk right now.”
Olivier Beauchemin wondered if there is a liability risk to the town, and Sharon McCarthy, a member of the Board of Health and a former member of the School Committee, said no.
“It never got to the point where they had to immediately vacate the space,” Dwight said.
Amy Morton said reconstruction or a rebuild would help “keep fabulous teachers” in Harvard, and Paul Green pointed out that Harvard has, in the past, supported projects like this, but “we ask that it be done correctly.”
Ben Guthro, when asked, said he enjoyed the forum.
“It was very nice,” he said. “I got a lot of information.”
Dwight thought it was a success.
“It was great,” she said. “We had an active group. I liked that it wasn’t just parents.”