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February 12. 2014 10:12PM

Windham's Golden Brook classroom closed due to roof leak, mold

WINDHAM — A leaking roof forced school officials to evacuate a modular classroom building at Golden Brook Elementary School earlier this week.

School officials said that more than 160 first-graders needed to be relocated to other parts of the school on Monday and Tuesday after evidence of mold was found in two small areas of the building.

“Basically we’ve had to beg, borrow and steal for space,” Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said on Wednesday.

A roof leak detected Monday morning led to the initial relocation of four first-grade classrooms, Feneberg said. By Tuesday afternoon, school officials opted to err on the side of caution and evacuate the remaining four classrooms just to be safe.

The superintendent added that staff has been “incredibly flexible” adjusting to the last-minute changes. On Wednesday afternoon, the Windham School Board released a statement announcing a public meeting inside the Golden Brook School gym this Monday, Feb. 17, to address community concerns on the matter. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.For now, the first-graders will conduct their daily activities in makeshift classrooms inside the school’s library, computer lab and special education rooms.

Art and music rooms will temporarily serve as classrooms, and the art and music teachers will have to, for the time being, store their class materials on portable carts.

Work crews will continue assessing the building’s damage this week.

Feneberg said air samples from the building have been sent to the state for testing and a certified industrial hygienist is examining the facility’s every corner.A staff meeting will take place this week to devise a long-term plan. It’s unclear how long the modular building will remain vacant.The modular classrooms at Golden Brook were manufactured in 1999 and arrived in Windham in 2009, according to Business Administrator Adam Steel.

Water damage was addressed in the building last summer, but no further problems had occurred until this week.

During a public discussion on the matter in early October, contractor Gino Barrone told the School Board that modular classroom buildings seldom last longer than 20 years and the structure is simply showing its age.

Barrone further noted that a replacement modular classroom would need to be ADA compliant, and would cost around $1.3 million to remove and dispose of the old structure and install a new one.

Right now the Windham School District is making annual lease payments of $77,000 on the modular classroom unit.

Local voters rejected articles that would have addressed the district’s facility concerns two years in a row.

The March 2012 ballot item would have funded new modular classrooms.

Earlier this year, the School Board opted against putting another facility expansion item onto the ballot, noting that the district’s budget is already increasing next year due to a potential new teachers’ contract and the addition of new high school and middle school deans.

Board member Dennis Senibaldi noted that limited education space, particularly in the elementary schools, remains a huge concern but judging by the town’s voting history, a facilities expansion bond “was almost guaranteed to fail” before voters come March.

A facilities maintenance study is under way to try to address crowding concerns using existing space.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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