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HomeNewsArchivesAlexander Henderson’s First Day a Success Despite Ongoing Issues

Alexander Henderson’s First Day a Success Despite Ongoing Issues

After a weeklong delay, Alexander Henderson Elementary opened its doors in Frederiksted on Tuesday for its first day of school. The setback occurred after receiving recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) due to maintenance issues. The school has also been battling throughout the summer to remove ongoing issues of mold and asbestos.

OSHA made the recommendation after maintenance crews complained about fiberglass particles that had become airborne causing severe itching. Strong fumes from painting and varnishing materials also caused an odor throughout the building.

Speaking Tuesday, St. Croix Insular Superintendent Gary Molloy said that the final cleanout was conducted Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday; while an inspection was conducted Monday to ensure that all recommendations had been implemented. Representatives from OSHA, Public Works, Planning and Natural Resources, the school’s PTA and American Federation of Teachers union officials were invited to see the final product.

Schoolteachers and support staff also participated during a final walk-through conducted Monday.

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“We wanted to make sure that all the recommendations they gave, and that we needed to follow, were incorporated into what we did,” Molloy said when asked about the walk-through. OSHA has also recommended that an air quality test be conducted this week, and the district will be receiving the results shortly thereafter, Molloy said.

While the opening day was a success, department officials said that Alexander Henderson still has some issues to address. On Aug. 18, Molloy said that mold and asbestos were found, and contractors worked throughout the summer to remove the mold and treat the asbestos.

The mold was treated by having the roof recoated, which fills in gaps and cracks in the concrete so rain cannot get trapped, and air quality tests were done. Molloy said that the department plans to continue cleaning air conditioning units and roofs to ensure that mold doesn’t re-infest the building.

The asbestos issue has still not been completely resolved. The department has been working with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and OSHA to handle the situation but has suffered setbacks along the way. Asbestos was noticed after the roots of a large rubber tree on the campus started to spread under the building, splitting and breaking tiles in various classrooms.

While the project was supposed to be completed Aug. 20, the department learned they needed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval, which delayed the removal.

There are two main ways of treating asbestos. One is abatement or removal, which keeps the particles from becoming airborne and causing damage to the lungs. The other is encapsulation, which involves asbestos-bearing materials being “enclosed” or “encapsulated” to prevent building occupants from being exposed to the fibers.

Because of the lengthy process of getting EPA approval, the department went with a backup plan, which included removing the large rubber tree in front of the main building where the roots had uprooted and cracked tiles throughout the campus. After the removing the tree, maintenance crews were able to put down a new floor in the affected area of the main entrance, which was finished on Aug. 26.

On Tuesday Molloy said V.I. Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry, OSHA, DPNR, Public Works, and various school and union officials attended a status meeting last week to discuss the situation and what the next steps would be. During that meeting, district officials were able to collaborate directly with DPNR, which plays an integral role in the reporting and approval process.

“We clearly worked out a procedure for that and have prepared for them a packet of everything we have up to this point,” Molloy said. “We know we have to keep in direct contact with DPNR about the process moving forward, and we will make sure that continues to happen.”

“In the meantime, the maintenance division is also doing some in-house repairs of the air conditioning units and classrooms that have not been affected,” Molloy said.

Copies of the reports and assessments generated by the contractors have been made available to the public by the department for review. Senators, union officials, PTA members and other key personnel have also been contacted to keep the public apprised of the situation.

When EPA approval is given to the contract, any other abatement work that needs to be done will be scheduled when students and staff are on break. In the meantime, the district will continue to have meetings with DPNR, which made the initial management plan for the school. The district will also be working with contractor Environmental Concepts, which had also put together a list of items to complete, including how to check the tiles and pinpoint deterioration.

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After a weeklong delay, Alexander Henderson Elementary opened its doors in Frederiksted on Tuesday for its first day of school. The setback occurred after receiving recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) due to maintenance issues. The school has also been battling throughout the summer to remove ongoing issues of mold and asbestos.

OSHA made the recommendation after maintenance crews complained about fiberglass particles that had become airborne causing severe itching. Strong fumes from painting and varnishing materials also caused an odor throughout the building.

Speaking Tuesday, St. Croix Insular Superintendent Gary Molloy said that the final cleanout was conducted Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday; while an inspection was conducted Monday to ensure that all recommendations had been implemented. Representatives from OSHA, Public Works, Planning and Natural Resources, the school’s PTA and American Federation of Teachers union officials were invited to see the final product.

Schoolteachers and support staff also participated during a final walk-through conducted Monday.

“We wanted to make sure that all the recommendations they gave, and that we needed to follow, were incorporated into what we did,” Molloy said when asked about the walk-through. OSHA has also recommended that an air quality test be conducted this week, and the district will be receiving the results shortly thereafter, Molloy said.

While the opening day was a success, department officials said that Alexander Henderson still has some issues to address. On Aug. 18, Molloy said that mold and asbestos were found, and contractors worked throughout the summer to remove the mold and treat the asbestos.

The mold was treated by having the roof recoated, which fills in gaps and cracks in the concrete so rain cannot get trapped, and air quality tests were done. Molloy said that the department plans to continue cleaning air conditioning units and roofs to ensure that mold doesn’t re-infest the building.

The asbestos issue has still not been completely resolved. The department has been working with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and OSHA to handle the situation but has suffered setbacks along the way. Asbestos was noticed after the roots of a large rubber tree on the campus started to spread under the building, splitting and breaking tiles in various classrooms.

While the project was supposed to be completed Aug. 20, the department learned they needed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval, which delayed the removal.

There are two main ways of treating asbestos. One is abatement or removal, which keeps the particles from becoming airborne and causing damage to the lungs. The other is encapsulation, which involves asbestos-bearing materials being “enclosed” or “encapsulated” to prevent building occupants from being exposed to the fibers.

Because of the lengthy process of getting EPA approval, the department went with a backup plan, which included removing the large rubber tree in front of the main building where the roots had uprooted and cracked tiles throughout the campus. After the removing the tree, maintenance crews were able to put down a new floor in the affected area of the main entrance, which was finished on Aug. 26.

On Tuesday Molloy said V.I. Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry, OSHA, DPNR, Public Works, and various school and union officials attended a status meeting last week to discuss the situation and what the next steps would be. During that meeting, district officials were able to collaborate directly with DPNR, which plays an integral role in the reporting and approval process.

“We clearly worked out a procedure for that and have prepared for them a packet of everything we have up to this point,” Molloy said. “We know we have to keep in direct contact with DPNR about the process moving forward, and we will make sure that continues to happen.”

“In the meantime, the maintenance division is also doing some in-house repairs of the air conditioning units and classrooms that have not been affected,” Molloy said.

Copies of the reports and assessments generated by the contractors have been made available to the public by the department for review. Senators, union officials, PTA members and other key personnel have also been contacted to keep the public apprised of the situation.

When EPA approval is given to the contract, any other abatement work that needs to be done will be scheduled when students and staff are on break. In the meantime, the district will continue to have meetings with DPNR, which made the initial management plan for the school. The district will also be working with contractor Environmental Concepts, which had also put together a list of items to complete, including how to check the tiles and pinpoint deterioration.