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Officials plan to fix health issues



Published: Thu, June 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- The school district will tear out carpeting and replace the ventilation ducts at troubled Girard Intermediate School to resolve health issues.

Board president Richard Ragozine said the decision was made during a 21/2-hour closed-door meeting with representatives of the district's environmental consultant, parents, city health board, building architect and board attorney.

"This is costing us a lot of money," Ragozine said.

The scope of the work is about the same as school officials have said will be done before the school is reopened in the fall.

Ragozine said that Clayton Group Services, an Akron-based environment consultant that conducted testing, reported the problem points to inadequate ventilation in the building.

The building was closed May 1 after pupils, teachers and staff complained of itchy and burning eyes, vomiting and rashes, among other symptoms.

Water-damaged carpet: Ragozine said Clayton found fungi in some areas of the carpeting that had become water damaged and recommended it be replaced with a hard surface such as linoleum.

The fungi, Ragozine said he was told, resulted in allergic-type reactions.

Classroom carpeting will be taken out, though it will be kept in some offices.

Ragozine said Clayton reported the levels of fungi in the carpeting are below Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

One of 29 tests in the heating and ventilation ducts tested positive for fungal growth, he explained.

The ducts will be replaced with those that have insulation on the outside rather than on the inside.

There have been allegations that insulation on the inside of the ducts became wet during construction and may have contributed to the problem.

Ragozine said the ducts are being replaced at an estimated cost of $250,000.

There is no estimate to replace the carpeting. The district will pay the cost, he added.

Although Clayton did not recommend replacing the ducts, Ragozine explained, the work will be done because of the ducts' "negative public perception."

"The school board is doing everything it can," Ragozine asserted.

Cathy Ross, president of Girard Concerned Citizens, who attended the meeting, said she was satisfied with Clayton's explanation of the test results and recommendations.

OSHA standards: However, she pointed out that OSHA's standards are for adults in a workplace and not children in a classroom.

Ed Noufer, another parent, said the carpeting and duct replacement will solve the problem. However, he didn't find out who is responsible for the problem.

Ragozine said the meeting was closed to the media because it wasn't a regular board session and those attending "would be free to speak their minds."

yovich@vindy.com




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