Emergency repairs approved for Hinsdale Middle School

Chuck Fieldman
cfieldman@pioneerlocal.com | @chuckwriting
Jan. 21 4:04 a.m.
HMS timeline July 2012: Buildings and Grounds Department discovers mold in upstairs bathroom, wall between choir room and music room, in custodial closet and in other bathrooms. Drywall replaced, air quality tested, leaking pipe repaired and caulking added. August 2013: Mold discovered on drywall in classrooms 223, 225 and 228. Removed and replaced. October 2013: Previously planned work to remove and replace wet drywall completed. Engineering firm review discussed. December 2013: Air quality tests conducted and find air quality well within acceptable guidelines.) Jan. 4: Leaking water pipe found in music room. Later that night, pipe in sprinkler system springs leak. Disaster recovery company assists with cleanup, dehumidifying and installation of filters. Jan. 5 and 6: School is closed due to extreme cold weather. Clean-up continues. Jan. 8: Water pipe breaks in room 216, causing additional water damage to music room. Some classrooms unusable. Jan. 9: As outdoor temperatures rise, water drips from roof onto ceiling of the second floor. Jan. 10: Integrity Environmental Services, Inc. conduct an air quality test. Results were received Jan. 16, show air quality to be well within acceptable guidelines. Jan. 13: Two staff members address School Board about student and staff health concerns. Board approves an Educational Adequacy Analysis of the school. Jan. 16: SERVPRO tests wall for wetness and removes drywall, identifies possible mold growth. Administration cancels after-school activities and closes school for following day. Jan. 17: Engineer identifies a water leak in main water line coming into the building. Water shut off. Jan. 18: Results of Jan. 16 mold test received and show low concentrations of mold spores on the drywall and surface samples tested. The SERVPRO staff continues to clean and sealed areas to prevent future mold growth, but determine more time is needed. Administration announces school closed until at least Jan. 22. Jan. 20: School Board meets in emergency session to approve additional work at the school. Source: Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181

Hinsdale Middle School will remain closed through at least Jan. 28 while measures are taken to fix a mold problem in the building.

With about 150 people in attendance Monday, the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board unanimously approved spending $384,512 for duct work cleaning and baseboard removal measures recommended by Integrity Environmental Services and SERVPRO, two companies working to fix problems. Work is expected to be completed Jan. 26; additional time is needed to test the air and surfaces after work has been completed.

District officials have been looking for alternative sites to use while HMS is closed and are leaning toward using a split or alternate day schedule at Clarendon Hills Middle School.

Ed Smith of SERVPRO said completing the duct work cleaning and baseboard removal measures will solve the remaining problem.

“We are quite confident that if the work is completed, it will not return,” he said. “Ninety percent (of the mold) has been removed from the property; we’re still in the process of searching the property and will remove anything else we find.”

The nearly $385,000 in costs for the work approved Monday breaks down to $255,000 for duct work cleaning and $129,512 for baseboard removal measures. Insurance is expected to cover the cost of duct work, Smith said.

Mark Ravanesi, president of Integrity Environmental Services, said there are no regulations limiting mold levels in buildings, only industry standards.

“Mold affects people differently,” he said.

While nobody is happy about the mold and water issues, Heather Scott, co-president of the Hinsdale Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association and a sixth-grade language arts teacher at HMS, said she is thrilled with the way the situation is being handled by the district.

“We’re happy that it’s being acknowledged and very quickly now,” she said.

Scott said she recently has been inside HMS with representatives of the two companies.

“I feel much better after actually seeing what they are doing and listening to them talk about it,” Scott said. “I would feel very confident about being back inside the building with the additional work being done.”

Scott urged community members to take a close-up look inside HMS themselves. District officials said that opportunity will be given when work is completed.

Gary Frisch, assistant superintendent of business and operations, said since the water pipe burst Jan. 4, direct costs related to mold, water, and moisture issues have included a $1,000 insurance deductible and $15,000 for bookcases

“The bookcases were purchased for the Hinsdale Middle School Media Resource Center to replace those that were water damaged and add book storage in line with future MRC plans, to separate the MRC space from the surrounding hallway and create more open space within the MRC,” Frisch said.

Additional costs will be presented at a future board meeting to replace the roof and also seal and insulate gaps in the exterior walls where cold air has been entering the building. Cost estimates for these have been requested of SERVPRO and the district’s architect.

Frisch said the district is working first to address the immediate needs of the school to ensure a safe learning and working environment for students and staff.