Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ready - well, almost

The construction work on the playground is now done, but work is still going on inside Arbor Heights. Workers are putting finishing touches here and there, fine tuning the new univents and plumbing (I think), last minute cleaning, teachers still moving furniture. There are still people going under classrooms to check things out. Luckily, the two classrooms impacted the most will not be used this year, so there is a little more breathing room...

I noticed a couple of classrooms that did not get new faucets or water filters. I guess their water is OK?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

School open late this week

Hopefully, having the building open until 8 PM Mon-Wed and Fri will help out those of us who are days behind on classroom setup because of the cleaning schedule being moved back due to air improvement measures. Fred was extremely gracious in granting my request. I will continue to explore ways to help make the return of us "back hall" teachers less stressful.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ups and downs

It has been an up and down day. It started with a doubtful opinion about whether the current excavation around the outside of the classrooms will make any difference to the water in the crawlspace. This was just plain demoralizing. I found out at the end of the day that water is indeed going down because of the pumping out process, and that drying is happening right now.

The work going on the inside and outside of the school right now is just amazing. Workers all over the place. By the afternoon I could see guys on the roof over room 7, I assume mounting and sealing the exhaust fan for the east end of the wing. Excavation around the four classrooms is complete, and drainage pipes are being laid, and then (by now, I assume) covered with fill. They will probably repave the torn up asphalt areas tomorrow. There will be workers there through the weekend.

I went in to try and get some work done in my classroom. It's the first time I've been able to do anything there. Normally, I'd have put in three full days to this point. Today I was able to put in 2 hours. It was incredibly demoralizing, especially looking at our schedule next week, with 75% of our three day work period devoted to meetings. I have asked to have those meetings cancelled or postponed, but that will not happen.

That's the bad news. But on a positive (I hope) note, there is a chance we can have the building open in the early evening, longer than the usual 3:30 "out of the building" routine next week. I've called teachers to find out if this is something they'd like ("YES!"), and have a request in.... feeling good about the possibility of making something positive happen for my colleagues.

The air will indeed be cleaner. The rooms will indeed be warmer. Here's to hoping us teachers will be given a fair chance to do our thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Progress, heartbreak, and foundations

Today I stopped by school again to see what's going on. Nothing much else to do, because I can't get in to my classroom, because room cleaning has been moved back to accomodate the air improvements. It is so frustrating not to be able to get things rolling in my own room. So I spent some time getting the computer lab set up - although all the student accounts are still not working properly - aaargh.

I ran into a teacher who was very upset that the planted garden area outside her classroom had been ripped out. It was left in a pile of rubble on the playground. Apparently she arrived too late this morning to save her trees, plants, and garden stuff; birdfeeders, birdhouses, etc. Those who see our school starting on time will have no idea of the stories like this that have happened in the wake of cleaning the air...

I sent an email to all staff suggesting our meetings scheduled next week be canceled - to allow teachers enough time to get their rooms ready. Teachers in the front half of the building have already been in their rooms for days getting ready. Those of us in the back hallway are still not allowed in. There's no way I can be ready for class if I have to attend all those meetings next week. Hopefully, people will understand and be flexible.

On my way out, I stopped to see how the excavation work (to waterproof the walls and install drainage lines) around rooms 15-18 was progressing. What I saw was not encouraging - part of the foundation has collapsed under a corner of a room. I'm not sure if the footing had given way, or if it is the block wall, but it did not look encouraging. The workers were setting out concrete bases for the chain link fence that will encircle the classrooms while the work is being done.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Progress and deadlines

I just returned from a short visit to school today - ran into several teachers already getting ready. As we all know, the four days we get before school starts are not even close to enough prep time. I started installing Inspiration on some of my classroom computers.

But I really wanted to see how progress was coming on the air quality fixes. Here's what the new univents (heaters) and the air intakes look like. They do take up quite a bit more real estate than the old ones, but I'm sure they'll be a lot more efficient. Apparently the fan rate can be adjusted, so some of the gossip I've heard about the units being loud may be inaccurate.

Then I stepped into a classroom where work is underway to create an exhaust duct for the roof fans (drawing air up and out of the crawlspaces). I took this shot of the ceiling on room 7 (the other one will be in room 18), where the framing work was beginning. Look at those ceiling joists - true 2-14 joists. Not something you see every day at Home Depot.

Finally, this is about water, but the filters are in place for classroom sinks and drinking fountains. Here's a typical setup:

So, progress looks good as school opening draws closer. I talked with Mike and they are pretty sure they've found the source of water flowing into the crawlspaces under rooms 16 and 17.... groundwater runoff that has seeped through the foundation on the outside of the classrooms. Looks like a sealing job may be necessary? There may indeed be leaks in the roof drains and the pipes leading to the culvert under the school - and they will check and repair for anything along those lines. They're going to pump out water, remove sludge, and start drying out the wet crawl spaces tomorrow. The loose asbestos pieces were removed a while ago. Mike and his crews are doing a super job getting all this stuff worked out. They have been a very effective team with Dr. Anderson

Friday, August 19, 2005

Air in the news

Two articles in Seattle papers this morning:

From the PI:
School judged safe despite some mold - sounds like Dr. Anderson was interviewed. Pretty good coverage of a very complex issue, some facts not quite right ("District workers have installed large air vents in each classroom and exhaust fans below", for example), but most on the money. Interesting to read about the L&I complaint end result - I don't know what that gets the teachers, but at least their voices got heard. I sure never would have crawled around down there years ago if I had known...

and then the Times:
Some fountains still can't pass school lead test - this is mostly about water fountains, obviously, but does indeed mention our mold problem. I wonder if our new fountains are passing or failing?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Good news: school safe and to open on time!

The following message is from Joe Sharp, Arbor Heights parent. Below that is the announcement from Dr. Anderson with more specifics

Hello Everybody,

It's been awhile since we sent out an update, because it seems the situation with the school and the work being done to fix the mold and other environmental problems at Arbor Heights has been in a state of flux for some time. But now we have some answers and have some good news to report.

School to Open Safely and On-Time

The work being done to improve the airflow and keep crawlspace air (primary source of mold) out of the classrooms has paid dividends, and the school should be safe and ready to open in September. New univents (heating and ventilation units) have been installed in all of the transportable classrooms, the air intake systems have been redesigned (with the help of Dr. Anderson) to bring in more fresh air, and fans are being installed to ventilate the crawlspaces so crawlspace air will not move up into the classrooms. Dr. Anderson is satisfied that the improvements have made the school safe (see his announcement at the end of this message). Work remains to be done to remove the water and mold under room 16, and it is moving forward. Dr. Anderson, with the PTSA's approval, has been working closely with school district personnel to ensure that all the necessary repairs and improvements are done, and done right, to make our school a healthy one.

Water Problem

The district engineering consultants GSAI have determined that the water under room 16 is not groundwater, as first suspected, but instead likely comes from the school drainage system. This is good news, in that it means it'll be easier to fix. Test are being done this week to determine the exact source of the water. A specification for the needed repairs will be ready at the end of next week


We still have some work to do, and we're working together to make sure it gets done.

Thanks for your ongoing support. If you have any questions, please send them to me at this e-mail address, and I'll try to get them answered. Again, please see Dr. Anderson's announcement following this message.

--E. Joe Sharp Parent Representative Arbor Heights Environmental Task Force

--- Message from Dr. Anderson ---

From: Dr. David R. Anderson [mailto:drdave@airmon.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 11:37 PM
Subject: Negative crawlspace and Positive classroom pressurizationworked!

Tests earlier today confirmed the approach to keep air from the wet crawlspace from entering the classroom by positively pressurizing the classroom and negatively pressurizing the crawlspace works. Crawlspace exhaust fans and the Univent in the classroom were able to keep crawlspace air from entering the classrooms in both the main building and portables. Initial tests were conducted in three selected classrooms which had operating univents. Pressures in the classrooms were positive relative to the crawlspace at both high and low univent fan speed s. Further tests are underway to define the size and placement of the crawlspace exhaust fans.

Tests in other classrooms will continue tomorrow and should be completed as soon as the work on the univents is completed, which is scheduled to be completed early next week. The univents will then be configured to provide the required air flow of 15 cfm of fresh air per person at the minimum settings. The mechanical engineer has agreed that he will not sign off on the new univent installations until each classroom meets the both the 15 cfm of fresh air per person requirement and my requirement of positive pressure in the classroom relative to the crawlspace. Normal operating conditions will exceed the minimum settings.

Children will not have to be moved to other schools or additional portables brought in, based on the criteria agreed upon by the parents, teachers, and the District in last Friday's meeting.

Modifications are continuing to optimize the negative pressure in the crawlspace. Now that groundwater has been eliminated as a source of water to the crawlspace, work is continuing on identifying the source of water in the crawlspace. Work is beginning on drying out the water in the crawlspace.

David R. Anderson, Ph.D.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Encouraging progress

Some of the air flow tests in the classrooms are back, and the results look good for providing fresh, clean air for our classrooms. More testing will continue today, but the early results are indeed encouraging. There is still a huge amount of work to be done, but it appears folks now know what work needs to be done - and that it is do-able... encouraging news, at last...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Task force meeting

We had a task force meeting today at Arbor Heights. There were a LOT of folks in attendance. First up was the report from the company which has been testing the soil around the affected classrooms. They determined the cause of water under classrooms was not due to ground water - but is most likely due to leaks in the roof drainage system. They presented a diagnostic and repair scenario.

There has been a lot of progress on the univent heater installation. The new air intake system should make a positive difference in air quality.

Big questions about creating a negative air space under all the classrooms to stop possible bad air from entering classrooms from the crawl spaces below. Testing of exhaust fans will happen Monday.

It was a very intense meeting - lots to report on, and much discussion about our school's healthy future. I continue to be optimistic - Mark

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

August 10 progress

Well, I just set this blog up, so that people can ask questions, make comments, etc. in a more public way. We'll see how it goes.

I did visit Arbor Heights this afternoon, and there is a LOT of activity going on - from the univent heaters being put in, the classroom sinks (with filters) are now set, hallway water fountains now have new supply pipes, there were people working in many classrooms (including 16, one of the worst) on air/water stuff, there are holes cut in all classroom walls to expose the roof drains, and there was a crew doing soil/water samples, I guess, on the playground, marking white arrows here and there.

Lots of activity and effort, I guess the big question remains - will it all be done in time for school to start? I sure hope so. And I do think it's possible.

The task force meets again this Friday, with an ambitious agenda. Ever hopeful - Mark

August 8 update

August 8: from Mark Ahlness, teacher at Arbor Heights and member of the Task Force: This is an unofficial update from the Task Force, which met on August 3rd. I thought I'd put some information here for those who'd like to know what's happening - on a more immediate basis. Sometimes the big machine moves EVER so slowly....

Anyway, we met with Dr. Anderson (mold toxicologist) for the first time last week, and the meeting was productive. On everyone's mind was the question of whether things would be cleaned up in time for the start of school. There was some discussion of portables, whether they would be needed, the idea of moving teachers around to empty classrooms - to leave the the worst rooms empty (a last choice, in my opinion), etc.

The plan is to install two large roof mounted fans to draw up air from under the worst classrooms, to inspect and repair/replace the roof drains above each classroom, and to modify the new univent heater installation (being done now) to bring in clean air from outside. Dr. Anderson thought all classrooms would then be safe to use. This does not address the standing water under two rooms, which may be caused by inadequate drainage, a high level of ground water - or whatever. But there is a plan in place to fix that, and that construction could take place while school was in session.

If the fans are working properly and the downspouts are finished by the third or fourth week of August, school could open on time, with all classrooms operating safely in their current locations. All agreed that this plan is indeed possible and were hopeful for its success. If it takes longer that this, it is likely portables will be ordered and set up.

Again, this is not an official update, just something for those who are anxiously waiting for some word about progress. Feel free to email me at mahlness@halcyon.com - Mark