Please support local journalism by subscribing at https://explore.mypapertoday.com/wickedlocalpremium
The special education program at Veterans Memorial Elementary School has been temporarily relocated to the new Saugus Middle-High School after the Hurd Avenue building sustained significant flood damage.
Last week, a grouping of Vets School special education students started their hybrid education at the Middle-High School, according to Executive Director of Pupil Personnel Services & Special Education Dawn Trainor.
A pod has been designated on the high school side of the Middle-High School to house the Vets School special education students, Trainor said.
Town Manager Scott Crabtree explained that in August, a faucet was left on when water service was restored following work at the Vets School and the first and second floors of a wing were flooded with hot water.
Crabtree said he dispatched cleaners to the Vets School as soon as the flood damage and mold were discovered.
School Committee Chairman Tom Whittredge said crews removed sheetrock and insulation in the classrooms affected by the water.
“If you don’t cut the sheetrock out you could have mold halfway up the wall and you wouldn’t even know about it,” Whittredge said.
A specialist was retained to ensure that any mold is addressed at the Vets School, Whittredge said. Dryers and humidifiers were brought in to combat the moisture, he added.
“Mold is not going to be an issue in these places,” Whittredge said.
The Vets School was already scheduled for rehabilitation in 2020-2021 as part of its transition to a prekindergarten to first grade lower elementary school under the district-wide master plan.
Crabtree said he is looking at doing improvements to the school’s entire HVAC system.
School Committee member Arthur Grabowski questioned if the work at the Vets School would be finished in time for the school to reopen for classes on Nov. 5 – the date the School Committee unanimously supported for the Saugus Public Schools to transition to hybrid learning from total remote learning.
Whittredge said he doesn’t have an exact timeline, though he noted the work is moving pretty fast.
In a communication to the School Committee that outlined the teacher union’s position against a move to hybrid learning, Saugus Educators Association President Rick Lavoie cited the mold found at the Vets School as one concern.
“We have yet to receive any notification of when the building will be ready for staff to occupy again,” Lavoie wrote. “In the interim, the sub-separate special education program has been moved to the new school displacing the high school teachers on the first floor. That suggests, to me, that the closure of the Veterans School may be a prolonged one. Needless to say, the concerns over mold in an elementary school coupled with the anxiety from COVID, has put an extra onus on any decision made tonight.”
Whittredge acknowledged that the flooding at the Vets School threw the School Department for a loop. He thanked the special education teachers who were relocated to the Middle-High School for their patience.
Whittredge recommended that the administration keep the impacted teachers updated about what’s going on with the repairs at the Vets School.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. David DeRuosi Jr. said he would be happy to talk to the teachers.
Whittredge expressed optimism about how the work will turn out at the Vets School.
“I think it will be better than it has ever been,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”
We want to hear from you. Which Saugus topics do you think we should cover? Let us know here.