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Windham school's repair options limited

WINDHAM — When it comes to the vacated modular classrooms at Golden Brook School, the district is stuck between a rock and a hard place, school board members agreed this week.

During Tuesday night’s School Board meeting, one day after local parents heard details of plans to move several third-grade classrooms to the high school for the remainder of the school year, district officials engaged in a lengthy discussion on the issue as it stands right now.

Business Administrator Adam Steel said the district has four options: abandon the eight-classroom structure altogether, repair it, replace it with another modular building or work toward a more permanent solution, like building an addition on one of the schools.

According to Steel, the temporary structure was manufactured in 1999 and installed in Windham 10 years later, when the state was willing to purchase portable classrooms for use as kindergarten classroom space.

In 2011, the district paid about $5,000 on roof and heating repairs to the building.

In June 2012, additional roof leaks made it necessary to install new roof seams.

That August, when the arrangement with the state expired, the district agreed to purchase the building outright and entered into a five-year lease.

Last June, the roof began leaking again and further inspection revealed significant water damage to the building.

From the beginning, indoor air quality tests have been performed on a regular basis, Steel said, and up until this month the building’s air has been deemed safe by EPA standards.

On Feb. 10, leaks were discovered in Rooms 107 and 108, leading school officials to immediately remove students from the structure.

Steel said that although spots of black mold were found inside the suspended ceiling, air quality tests continued to show safe results.

“But that’s when we made the decision to officially close the building,” he said.

Repairing the building could cost anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000, though the ultimate cost would depend on the extent of damages, Steel said, whereas a replacement building could cost more than $1 million.

It’s unknown how far the damage has spread since the inspection process involves a partial demolition of the building.

Steel said it could cost up to $75,000 to tear down the ceilings and analyze damages.

“From there, we could make a final recommendation based on the findings,” he said.

Board Chairman Michael Joanis agreed further inspection was likely a necessary, though costly, place to begin.

“No matter which way we end up going, it’s best to begin with a thorough inspection,” Joanis said.

“None of these solutions are ideal,” board member Dennis Senibaldi said. “But we have to go with one of these options. We’ve made a commitment to parents that having third-graders at the high school was only temporary.”

Board member Michelle Farrell expressed frustration over the situation.

“We keep throwing money into a structure we can’t really fix,” Farrell said. “This really brings our space issue to attention. We need to start thinking of a long-term solution.”

Should the damage prove too widespread, the costly option of replacing the structure with a new one would necessitate a special district meeting to appropriate funds — a 90-day process.

“The timing of this couldn’t have been worse,” Steel said. “If this had happened literally a week earlier we could have addressed it at the school deliberative session.”

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