WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield High School passed air quality tests, clearing the building to open and resume classes as scheduled on Jan. 2, according to a Wethersfield Public Schools website memo left by Principal Tom Moore.
The successful test marked the end of a Christmas break-long PCB abatement process, running from Dec 20 to 31, as part of the $75 million Wethersfield High School renovation project that will add, amongst other things, a new library, gymnasium and music room.
For the Wethersfield High School Building Committee, Christmas break was about moving the new construction phase for the project along, and that could not happen before PCB materials in Gymnasium B, the boys’ locker room, and the band and chorus rooms were abated.
The task prompted the closing of the building to all students and faculty members for the duration of the break, with the exception of a two-man custodial “skeleton crew,” according to Wethersfield Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett.
Home athletic games, as well as practices, were held at other nearby schools.
Contractors from the firm Fuss and O’Neil submitted two plans--one for the demolition and abatement for site specific PCB remediation for Phase 1 of the project, and the other for work on asbestos-specific materials--before beginning work in the building. The former had to be prepared by Nov. 25 so that a review could be completed by Dec. 6. The asbestos plan had to be submitted the same date, so that it could be cleared by Dec. 2.
The contractors had already begun taking air samples as early as Dec. 23, according to Emmett.
“They went in with a clear understanding that they had to get this done, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Emmett.
The areas where the work was performed are still inaccessible to students, since they are close to where construction on the site’s new additions will be taking place, he said. For music students, the band and chorus rooms have been off limits for a couple of months now, Emmett said.
“Everybody’s adapting,” he said. “It’s not the most optimal, but everybody’s adapting in the best way that can be expected.”
More PCB abatement is expected, as the team still needs to clear material in areas of the existing building that are slated for renovation as part of the project’s second phase.
“We’re not going to try and abate everything at once,” Emmett said. “We’ll start abatement as we move to close off that part of the building.”
The Building Committee will close off a section of the building at a time for this purpose, likely during school breaks, with the work on larger common areas slated for the longer summer vacation Emmett said.
There has been talk of more abatement work in the upcoming February break, for which the district is prepared to relocate athletic events and close the building should it come to that, according to Emmett.
The high school building committee needs to clear the existing building of PCBs in order to garner EPA approval to begin renovating it. This prompted the team to delay presenting its plans for this portion of the project to the state at the end of March, when it got the go-ahead to begin work on the site’s additions--components of Phase 1.
The Board of Education gave the green light for the phased approach in an effort to keep the start of construction of the high school’s new library, gymnasium, and music room on schedule and avoid any cost escalations that might be caused by a delay.