ADAMS TWP — Mars Area School Board's president said during a board meeting Sept. 10 that the school year had gotten off to a good start. But a student brought up concerns about the middle school's conditions amid ongoing construction.
“By all accounts, it was a great first and second day of school,” said Dayle Ferguson, school board president.
Ferguson said teachers and staff were energized and ready to work with students, particularly in the middle school.
But Maggie Suppo and her father, Craig Suppo, told the school board that they are concerned about conditions at the middle school, where Maggie is a student.
“Kids are going home sick with dust allergies,” she said.
Maggie reported that teachers need to wipe dust off books, the school's intercom system doesn't work and supplies are limited.
“Teachers are saying that they wish someone would just come and clean the school,” Maggie said.
Maggie said she was only able to find one water fountain Sept. 10 during school.
“I would like to have a place where teachers are not dusting off books, light switches work, fans aren't the source of moving air and I didn't have to search for a water fountain that worked,” Maggie said.
Maggie's father said he had been happier when the district discussed temporarily moving students to the high school.
“I understand construction,” Craig Suppo said. “I've been in it my whole life. Construction is a dirty job.”
He said he's specifically concerned about air quality and mold in the middle school.
“Seventy-degrees is when mold starts to grow,” Suppo said. “Today was 85.”
Suppo said students have left the school with hives and that a teacher is on medical leave after having an allergic reaction.
“We know construction is ongoing,” he said. “So, dust will continue to be generated.”
District Superintendent Wes Shipley said the school underwent a professional cleaning by Service Master the weekend before students returned.
He also noted air quality was tested, and that the middle school meets code requirements. The results of that testing are posted on the district's website.
Shipley said ultraviolet lights in heating ducts are being used to combat mold growth.
“We felt that we were ready to go,” Shipley said. “That last cleaning crew was picking up three months of dust.”
Shipley said no teachers were absent from the middle school Sept. 10.
John Hays, project construction manager from Thomas and Williamson, also addressed the Suppos' concerns.
“I went to the nurse the last two days and asked if she's had any students come to her,” Hays said. “I was told, 'No.'”
Hays said air conditioning in the middle school — other than where construction is taking place in the gym — has been running since Sept. 7.
“There's air conditioning everywhere, to the point that everybody was asking us to raise the temperature,” Hays said. “There were people wearing blankets today.”
Hays said heavy construction took place this summer and most debris was cleared during the weekend cleaning. Construction workers are not using chemically applied adhesives.
“All the drinking fountains are on and working,” Hays added.
He said there are more drinking fountains in the middle school now than before construction.
Some outlets haven't been working. Hays said those are being rewired.
“We were never concerned about not being ready for the first day of school,” Hays said.
Ferguson said construction in the middle school took place almost every day this summer, including holidays and weekends.
“All of (those involved) worked a synchronized schedule to maximize every moment of every day,” Ferguson said. “It was all-hands-on deck, and they rallied.”
Construction is expected to continue through December.
There are 3,371 students enrolled this year in the Mars district.