Following parents’ concerns about the environmental conditions of P.S. 114, a Belle Harbor school that took in about five feet of water during the Sandy storm surge, the teachers’ union pressed Tuesday for a more thorough clean-up of areas containing possible mold.
“This morning, we inspected the auditorium and found that the SCA conducted work over the past weekend, had scraped all the paint, applied a skim coat and painted the walls in the auditorium. However, we conducted moisture meter readings and found 90-99% moisture in the walls,” the union’s chief of staff wrote in a letter Tuesday. “The plaster was not completely removed to the substrate as recommended by all best practice recommendations including the NYC Department of Health. This will only lead to bacterial and mold colonization.”
Department of Education spokesperson Erin Hughes said the department found the air quality acceptable after an independent contractor conducted numerous air quality tests in the school.
“We also visually tested for mold and discarded and replaced all wet porous materials from the school. We have shared this information during meetings with parents on two separate occasions and, in response to parent requests, will also conduct additional wall sample tests in the auditorium and share the test results with the school community,” Hughes said.
NY1 has this report from Monday night’s meeting at the school with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and other education officials.
The full letter from the UFT’s Ellie Engler to Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm is below:
During the hurricane, PS114Q suffered flooding damage in the basement and auditorium. The DOE consultant’s reported that the building material plaster walls were wet in the basement when tested for moisture content on November 24th. The school reopened on Monday, November 26th.
In response to staff concerns about the auditorium, the UFT visited the school on Wednesday, November 28th. At the time of our visit, we found the following in the auditorium:
*Wall tested wet in various locations in the auditorium ranging from 20-90%, including in the front of the auditorium near the AC switch, it was 70% wet; the perimeter wall by the windows – 60% wet; the baseboards, by exit 2 near the auditorium were 90% wet, four feet up it was 90% wet, five feet up it was 70% wet. Above one of the radiators the wall plaster was 60% wet. The wall plaster by the auditorium doors was 50% wet.
* The storage area, room 142 in the hallway by the auditorium had a potent moldy odor. The wall plaster inside the storage was 30% wet.
Normally moisture levels in plaster are below 10%. These measurements indicate the plaster continued to be wet from the storm storage. It has been wet for over a month and is very likely to have bacterial and mold colonization. We called DSF and shared this information immediately and asked that the auditorium be closed.
On the evening of Wednesday, November 28th, the DOE held a parent meeting in that auditorium space although our recommendation was to keep the area closed. We were then told that the auditorium would be closed after the meeting and it was our understanding that it was closed on Thursday and Friday.
We learned yesterday, another parent meeting was to be held at the school in the auditorium. We contacted DSF yesterday at 4:18PM and recommended that the auditorium not be used based on our moisture meter measurements that detected elevated moisture in the auditorium. Nonetheless the meeting was held in the auditorium.
We are very concerned and disappointed in the lack of collaboration on this issue of keeping the auditorium closed until the wet plaster is removed and replaced. This morning, we inspected the auditorium and found that the SCA conducted work over the past weekend, had scraped all the paint, applied a skim coat and painted the walls in the auditorium. However, we conducted moisture meter readings and found 90-99% moisture in the walls. The plaster was not completely removed to the substrate as recommended by all best practice recommendations including the NYC Department of Health. This will only lead to bacterial and mold colonization.
We expect DOE to take immediate steps to remedy the situation at P114Q and will monitoring other schools impacted by the storm. Please advise.