So much goes on behind the scenes to keep our kids safe, happy, and healthy in our schools. Once in awhile situations arise that can test a school community’s responsiveness and cooperation. RSU 18 and China Primary recently passed that test with flying colors.
On New Year’s day, a CPS custodian stopped by to check that the walks were salted and found the school cafeteria and kitchen were filled with steam with over an inch of water covering the floor. A hot water valve on a dishwasher had failed in the kitchen. The mess was cleaned up, Maintenance Director Jeff Shieve was immediately notified, and he, in turn, contacted Air Quality Management, Inc to come test for the presence of mold.
When tests by microbiologist Nick Ferrela revealed some visible mold inside the wallboards, the cafeteria and kitchen were immediately closed. Nutrition Director Will Hamilton oversaw the move of necessary supplies to CMS and worked with kitchen staff to develop a plan to transport food from CMS to CPS. Meals were served in the foyer. Breakfast tables were set up in the music room to feed 60-80 students, then dismantled each day in time for 9 am music classes, and lunches were typically eaten in the classrooms. While menus had to be slightly altered, the district’s commitment to nutritional meals was still maintained.
In the meantime, Mr. Shieve made contact with Advance One Cleaners to begin the cleanup process. Less than a week after the leak was discovered, all items in both the cafeteria and kitchen were cleaned and moved out and areas impacted by mold were sealed off from the rest of the building. The cleanup was extremely thorough.
“Ceiling tiles were removed, wallboards cut out all the way around the room, carpet taken off the stairs and all surfaces cleaned, ” said Principal Pietz. “Nick Ferrala came back out and tested again. The air quality was fine but the surface of the cafe wall that is common with the foyer failed the surface test so more wallboard was removed.” A third test revealed mold on the metal studs which were then cleaned. One more round of tests cleared the cafeteria of all mold and students were able to resume eating lunch in the cafeteria on January 25th. As of the beginning of February, the kitchen work was still underway.
“We are very appreciative to Jeff Shieve and the maintenance crew,” said Principal Pietz, “Jeff’s timely response to this problem prevented a safety hazard. I commend him for all of his efforts. Will Hamilton and the kitchen staff at both CMS and CPS have been fantastic in being flexible and making this all work.” Principal Pietz also praised the staff, from the custodian Emile Labranche who first discovered the leak and did all he could to help the school community during the cleanup process, to the teachers and educational support staff who volunteered to help monitor students eating in classrooms.
“Every part of this major project has been done with efficiency, professionalism, and caring cooperative attitudes.” added Principal Pietz.