Air quality concerns raised at Barrington Middle School

District officials order tests; new school bond vote looms ·

Barrington school officials have ordered tests on the air quality inside the current middle school building.

The tests, which were conducted on Monday, Sept. 3 appear to be in response to concerns raised by a number of parents of middle school students. (Barrington schools were closed on Sept. 3 in observance of Rosh Hashanah.)

Learn more about the proposed new middle school.

Early last week, parents began posting comments to Facebook about possible mold and mildew conditions inside the school.

"I'm convinced BMS kids get sick more — how can they not with all the mold in that building?" wrote one local parent.

"I smelled BAD mold coming from a spot in the ceiling where a pipe had clearly leaked (the pipe wrap was cut away)," wrote another.

"I'm concerned about the health and safety of our children there now! Yes we need a new school and I'm fine with that but that doesn't mean the kids there now should be put at risk," wrote another.

"My daughter and her classmates have recounted to me a story of their science teacher coming to school over summer (when her air purifier hadn't been running) and having to leave because her respiratory system was so irritated," wrote a parent.

On Monday, Barrington Middle School Principal Dr. Andrew Anderson sent a message to families of local students. It stated, in part, "In response to concerns regarding indoor air quality at the Middle School, District Administration, has requested the architectural firm Kaestle Boos Associates, to re-test previous areas that have already been remediated and conduct additional indoor air quality testing in the building. Testing will be conducted on Monday, October 3rd and anticipate a report by the end of the week..."

A number of parents were at the school last Wednesday night for a forum discussing the possible construction of a new middle school in town. Officials have proposed a new, three-story building with the cost not to exceed $68.4 million; the bond will be up for a vote on Nov. 8.

For parents like Sara Bonneau, a new middle school building cannot arrive soon enough. 

"That building is disgusting," she said about the current school. "It stinks in there. You can smell the mold."

Mrs. Bonneau and her husband visited the school recently for an open house. They stopped into their son's classroom and within seconds could detect a strong odor of mold. 

"I feel bad for the teacher," said Mrs. Bonneau. 

The local mom said she does not blame school officials for the situation — "they're doing everything they can. They are very responsive," she said. The problem, she said, is that the building is rife with deficiencies and needs to be replaced.

Mrs. Bonneau and other parents have also pointed to problems with the air quality inside the boy's locker room and the gymnasium. Last year, Mrs. Bonneau's son Ryan was "sick all winter." She blames the school building for his problems.

"There are winter colds, but this was different," she said. "He never caught a break all winter."

Another local mom shared her concerns about the gym on Facebook: "Once gym goes inside for the son is down at the nurse! He is allergic to mold, bugs, dust, etc... I really don't need him in the hospital again because he can't breathe that is scary!!!"

Prior testing

Barrington Schools Superintendent Michael Messore and Director of Finance and Administration Ron Tarro acknowledged deficiencies at the current middle school building.

"I can't say that we have the best HVAC system there," said Mr. Messore. "That's part of why we need a new building."

Mr. Tarro added about the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the middle school: "It doesn't provide for proper air exchange."

Both officials said it was possible the HVAC system was also exceedingly challenged during certain times of the year, depending on environmental conditions. They added that teachers at the middle school have voiced concerns about air quality inside the building to the principal and central office administration.

Mr. Messore said Kaestle Boos Associates — the firm hired to design a new middle school — had conducted prior air quality tests and found some problems. A company was hired to "scrub down" problem areas and a second set of tests were conducted. The air quality came back at acceptable levels, officials said. 

The testing on Monday was reportedly conducted in response to the very recent complaints and concerns. 


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