Winnisquam Middle School opens with 7th & 8th graders sharing space with 6th

TILTON — Winnisquam Regional School District's middle school children returned to school yesterday — a week late but safely ensconced in the seventh and eighth grade wings.

Superintendent Tammy Davis said that recent air quality tests for the seventh grade wing were in the normal range, meaning the school could use two of three wings — enough space to temporarily house all three grades.

"We had an open house (Wednesday) for the sixth-grade parents and there were no concerns," Davis said yesterday. She also said the first day of school went smoothly and the students were excited to be back in school.

In mid-August, a routine air quality sample revealed that mold spores were well above acceptable levels in the sixth-grade wing of the middle school.

Levels in the seventh-grade wing were also elevated, prompting the Winnisquam School Board to delay the opening of the entire middle school for one week while air remediation experts could assess the danger levels and fix them. The eighth grade wing — built as an addition to the school in 2000 — had acceptable levels of mold spores and didn't need remediation.

In an e-mail sent to all parents on August 29, Davis said the mold removal in the seventh-grade wing was successful and there would be enough room to house all three grades temporarily. Parents were notified individually about classroom assignments and schedules.

Davis also said middle school students will make up three of the five missed days by having classes on days previously scheduled as professional development days for teachers. On those — Friday October 11, Friday November 8, and Friday January 24 — the school buses will operate for middle school students on a normal daily schedule.

She said the principal will be working with the teachers to develop a plan for them to make up the professional time lost to the school delay.

As of last week, the school district had spent about $100,000 on the mold remediation. School Board members were told to expect as much as $120,000 in costs for the remediation.

Experts attributed much of the excess mold growth this year to an unusually wet, rainy, and humid spring and summer coupled with high ground-water levels that inhibit the floors from drying completely. The dampness is especially acute in the sixth-grade wing.

Mold remediation specialist Dennis Francouer said using the air circulating system during the summer months may reduce further mold buildup in the future. Traditionally, the system is shut down in the summer to save on electricity.

Davis said the entire school building will be monitored throughout the month of October and parents will be updated about the results of the tests and the work continues in the sixth grade wing. She was hopeful it could be ready in about 2-to-4 weeks.

Francouer said last week that during the winter months relatively humidity and air temperatures drop significantly, killing the mold.