Mohawk Trail Building Subcommittee approves ventilation plans, continues elementary school repairs

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2020 6:14:34 AM

BUCKLAND — With the intent of making school buildings safe for students amid the lasting pandemic, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District Building Subcommittee has approved the district’s Ventilation Remediation Plan.

The plan, which reviews the ventilation work status of each of the district’s facilities, mentions completed work at Colrain Central School and Sanderson Academy. Additionally, repairs to the ventilation system at Mohawk Trail Regional School were expected to be finished by the end of the week, according to Superintendent Sheryl Stanton.

Repairs at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School (BSE), meanwhile, are planned to take place in two phases, Stanton said in a recent video update to the community. According to the remediation plan, none of the classrooms in the K-1 wing meet air exchange standards.

The hope is for BSE’s repairs to be completed in the next few weeks, Stanton said.

Some concern, however, was raised at the Oct. 7 Building Subcommittee meeting in terms of what to do with students and staff, who are currently working outdoors, in the meantime.

Reading a letter on behalf of a handful of BSE teachers and the Mohawk Trail District Education Association’s building representatives for BSE, School Committee member Leiha Maldonado relayed concerns of cold temperatures outdoors, noise levels and other distractions in tents. The letter suggested the district consider alternative spaces, such as one of the other schools, to move the students and staff indoors as the weather gets colder.

According to Stanton, a site review with public health officials was held on the same day as the meeting. At the time of the review, Stanton said she was told that the outdoor programming for the preschoolers and special education hub students was appropriate.

Director of Facilities and Transportation Robin Pease, who was also on the site visit, said she was advised that BSE staff and students should use bathrooms in the newer wing of the building, rather than the older wing.

Maldonado, however, expressed concern for the school’s bathrooms, in particular, where toilets do not have seat covers, allowing bioaerosols to spread in the air when a toilet is flushed.

“We’re in a pandemic,” Maldonado said. “(COVID-19) is spread through the air. ... If there’s space at Colrain, or space at Mohawk, why can’t we move the children?”

The consensus among Building Subcommittee members, however, was to trust the District Leadership Team’s decision to keep students and staff outdoors.

“That team worked together, problem solved and decided that keeping students … close to their environment, where they were comfortable … really was in their best interest,” Stanton said. “Given that we can be back in the building relatively quickly, while the weather is still conducive, then the decision was made to stay put at BSE.”

Building Subcommittee member Kate Barrows said she wasn’t comfortable with the “top-down approach” in a “complex issue.”

“I feel like there are more pieces to this puzzle that the School Committee might not be considering,” she said.

Paris Finley, another Building Subcommittee member, said although he finds himself agreeing with both sides of the issue, he agreed with the concept of trusting the District Leadership Team.

“I think everyone is right there with Leiha on her concerns,” Finley said. “We share that. I don’t think it’s possible for that (concern) to be raised any more than where we are at now.”

Ultimately, the proposed amendment to move the students to alternative indoor locations failed, and the motion to accept the Ventilation Remediation Plan as written passed unanimously.

Stanton noted that the district recently released a survey to gather input from families as to whether they intend to participate in a remote, hybrid or in-person model of learning in Phase II of the Return to Learn Plan, which won’t happen unless the district meets certain pre-determined benchmarks. The survey is still live on the school website at mtrsd.org.

“The DLT (District Leadership Team) has been meeting again on a daily basis to think about how to return to learn with our (in-person) goal date of Nov. 24,” she said. “There’s a lot of decision-making that’s going into that, particularly because of the ventilation and classroom space at BSE.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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