BY DAVE GYMBURCH
Staley Elementary School missed the opening bell today for the start of the new school year, and will be closed today and Friday due to maintenance-related concerns that include checking air quality tests.
Students will return to the school building on Monday, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said in a tweet Wednesday night on the district website.
Also, in a message forwarded Wednesday through the Staley Parent Teacher Group Facebook page, Blake said “over the past several weeks, with higher than normal temperatures, higher than normal dew points, and extreme humidity...we have experienced an increased amount of moisture in all of our buildings.”
Unfortunately, he added, Staley “has seen levels of moisture and damp air that has caused a mildew/mold-like substance to appear on some of our surfaces.”
The district has “had experts in to assess the situation, take samples, and test the air quality throughout the building,” said Blake’s message. “Although there is no immediate danger or reason to believe the situation is harmful, I am choosing to close the building for students on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7.”
With students to return Monday, “this will provide our team and other professionals an opportunity to clean all surfaces, ventilate the building, and ensure air quality tests are conducive for occupancy,” Blake said. Separately in his tweet, Blake said of the temporary closing that “I understand that this is an inconvenience, but student and staff health, safety, and welfare are always our priority.”
Blake additionally said today of the Staley situation, “the issue has been ongoing for decades so it was something that is on the radar every year when the humidity rises and the dew points are high.” Testing of the air is being done by the Dickinson Environmental microbiologist firm, he added.
“As of now, the substance has not been identified and we do not expect results back until tonight,” Blake said today.
Regarding the anticipated return of students on Monday, Blake said that was “based on the recommendation of the professionals, which was that it was safe to hold school today and tomorrow if we wanted. Their recommendation was based on what they viewed and their experience in other locations.”
The decision to close the building, explained Blake, was “simply to allow the cleaners unimpeded access to the building and to ensure that students and staff have a normal first day.” When asked about the missed days of school, Blake said the district will “address that down the road....”
A Staley PTG Facebook message on Wednesday said “we ask our families to please be supportive of this decision. The staff is working hard to make sure health and safety is the priority. We understand that this may cause complications for some but this decision is in the best interest of our students.”
Staley, at 620 E. Bloomfield St., includes grades K-6 and is the largest of the Rome district’s seven elementary schools. Its opening enrollment a year ago included about 740 students.