GIRARD School's reopening in fall hangs in doubt

Officials aren't sure if repair work will be completed in time for the intermediate school to open by fall.
GIRARD -- Remedial work at the troubled Girard Intermediate School will cost at least $500,000, and the building's status for reopening in the fall remains in doubt.
The 500-pupil school was closed May 1 by the board of education as pupils, teachers and staff were getting ill.
Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosio said testing to find the source of the illnesses will cost nearly $60,000 and replacement of the heating- and air-conditioning duct work will cost about $250,000.
Although there are no estimates for removing the carpeting and replacing it with a hard floor and upgrading the heating and air conditioning units in each room, D'Ambrosio said he thought the project will cost about $500,000.
Because the board has decided to replace the duct system -- that was not a recommendation -- "This board will have to eat that cost," D'Ambrosio said.
If there is faulty design or installation, those responsible will have to pay the cost, the superintendent added.
Bids: Richard Ragozine, board president, said the district has advertised for bids for the flooring work and duct replacement, but it hasn't received the bids to get the work started.
Flooring and duct work can be finished before school begins in the fall, Ragozine explained, but work on the heating and cooling units may not be completed in time.
It has not been determined if the units need to be replaced, or upgraded or if an auxiliary system must be added to move the air in and out of the building.
The board president noted that since the heating and cooling units probably won't be used during September, workers will have more time to correct the ventilation system, which Ragozine said is the crux of the problem.
If the work doesn't get done, D'Ambrosio said, intermediate classes will be at the junior-senior high school building and Tod Woods School.
"That will be the plan for now," said D'Ambrosio, who is leaving at the end of the month to become superintendent of the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
Pupils, teachers and staff began experiencing symptoms of illnesses last October and November, but parents were not notified of the problem until March 23.
Looking back: In retrospect, Ragozine said, it would have been better to notify parents with children who have allergies so they could have contacted the school if their children developed symptoms such as eye irritation and rashes.
When the symptoms began, the board president recalled, it appeared as if they were limited to individuals.
"There was no sense of urgency," Ragozine said in defending the board's actions, noting he and the other board members were unaware of the magnitude of the problem until parents spoke up at the April 24 board meeting. The school was closed a week later.
Ragozine said no parent contacted him about the illnesses and one person had contacted two board members about the symptoms.
The board president said the problem with getting information out to the public was the lack of facts that the building was responsible for the problems.
Nonetheless, some parents remain critical of the school administration for not being candid with the public.
"That building didn't have to be closed. We tried to respond appropriately to the public's concerns," Ragozine pointed out.
"I think it's really sad that a community has been divided over this. We don't want to see people get sick."

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