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High School Moisture Issues Fall 2018

Please see below for the updates that have been sent to the UPSD community in regards to the moisture and mold issues at the high school.


Sent on September 8 to all district families and staff:

Dear Parent/Guardian -

It seems like every time I write to you about the high school recently, it’s with bad news or a new development. Unfortunately, that is the case yet again.

As you know, we have had unprecedented weather this summer, with incredibly hot, humid and rainy conditions persisting for a longer period of time than is typical for this part of the country. Many of our fellow eastern Pennsylvania districts were forced to delay the start of school or close buildings for a period of time because of moisture and mold issues, and now our high school can unfortunately be added to that ever-growing list.

We first noticed some surface mold in areas of the high school over the summer break. Soon thereafter, we employed nationally- and globally-renown, well-established companies 1Source Safety and Health Inc. and BELFOR Property Restoration to address those mold and moisture problems. The areas of surface mold were cleaned, the air was scrubbed, air filters were proactively replaced, dehumidifiers were brought in, and we felt confident that the issues were resolved at the time.

Unfortunately, as you know, the problematic weather has persisted, and our system simply can’t keep up at this point. The moisture challenges have become larger than we and the experts initially thought, and some new problems have popped up since the start of the year, including new mold growth in the gymnasium. As the environmental conditions remain unchanged, we felt it was important to have 1Source and BELFOUR look deeper into to root of the moisture problem in the high school.

What these experts have suggested is that we make significant changes to our high school’s oldest HVAC system to make it more efficient and take steps to alleviate our moisture problem. They also recommended cleaning the affected areas and ductwork, to ensure that the problem is remediated effectively and that our high school is a healthy environment for students and staff.

As you can imagine, making these changes to the HVAC system and conducting this level of cleaning is no small task, and therefore we have no choice but to close the building for the week of September 10-14. We want to ensure that this problem is addressed properly, and we are not looking to cut corners on this important issue, so a building closure is unavoidable.

At this time, we’ve identified four make-up days for the high school. The fifth missed day will not need to be made up due to an extra day built into our school calendar. The make-up days will be:

  • November 6 (Election Day)
  • November 19 & 20 (originally-scheduled parent-teacher conferences will occur at another time)
  • January 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

All other schools will be in session next week and elementary and middle school students will not need to attend school on the high school make-up days.

The Western Center will also be in session next week, and families of children who attend the Western Center will receive a separate email with details on transportation later this weekend.

We know that many of you may have questions about these issues, and as such, we will be dedicating a significant portion of our board meeting on Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m. to discussing these concerns. A representative from BELFOR will be available to answer questions. We invite you to contact us in the meantime, or attend that meeting.

Please know that we are taking these moisture and mold issues very seriously, and that the health and well-being of our students and staff is a top priority. Thank you for our patience as we work to make changes to our high school infrastructure to address these recent developments.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools


Sent on September 9 to families of Western Center students:

We appreciate your understanding while we remedy the moisture issues at the high school. As was stated in the previous email, students will be able to attend their session at the Western Center next week. The plan is as follows:

  • Morning students will be picked up at their normal stops in the morning and will be transported to the middle school. They will leave from the middle school to be transported to the Western Center.
  • Morning students will be transported back to the middle school at the end of their session and will have an opportunity to take a bus to Marlborough, Hereford or stay at the middle school for someone to pick them up at the location that works best for them.
  • The bus drop off at the middle school will be 11:00 am.
  • The bus drop off at Marlborough and Hereford will be 11:20 am.
  • Afternoon students can meet the school bus at three locations, Marlborough Elementary School, Hereford Elementary School and Upper Perkiomen Middle School. The district will transport from those locations only.
  • The bus pickup time at Marlborough and Hereford will be 10:35 am.
  • Students taking the bus from the middle school must be at the school by 10:55 am.
  • Afternoon students will be transported back to the middle school at the end of the day, and will take their regular afternoon bus home.
  • Students are permitted to drive themselves to the Western Center, should they have the opportunity to do so. They will be permitted to park on Western Center property next week.
  • Should students be unable to take advantage of the adjusted transportation schedule, they will be excused from their Western Center classes.

Again, thank you for your cooperation on this matter,

Dr. Alexis McGloin


Sent by Dr. Carpenter on September 10 to families of seniors:

Parents/Guardians,

After communicating with the photography company, we have successfully moved senior portraits to the Education Center. Please adhere to your previously scheduled appointment time. Signs will posted at the Ed Center with details. Please park on the Main Entrance/Gymnasium side of the building. Thanks again for your flexibility.

Sincerely,

Rob Carpenter, Ed.D
Principal, UPHS


Sent on September 10 to families of Western Center students:

We have worked with our bus company to provide an extra stop at the high school for Western Center students for the remainder of this week (Tuesday-Friday), in addition to the stops listed in the previous email (Marlborough, Hereford and UPMS).

Morning Western Center Students:

Morning Western Center students wishing to be picked up at the high school should report to the parking area across Walt Road from the HS tennis courts before 7:30 a.m. From the HS pickup, students will continue on to UPMS to be transported to the Western Center. For midday drop-off, students returning to the high school should board the bus bound for Marlborough Elementary, which will make a stop at the high school prior to continuing on to Marlborough.

Afternoon Western Center Students:

Afternoon Western Center students wishing to be picked up at the high school should report to the parking area across Walt Road from the HS tennis courts before 10:45 a.m. From the HS pickup, students will continue on to UPMS to be transported to the Western Center. At the end of the day, afternoon Western Center students wishing to return to the high school should take bus 20 from the Western Center, which will drop them at the high school.


Sent on September 12 to all district families and staff:

Dear Upper Perk Community,

I wanted to write to you with an update on the work to address the moisture and mold issues at the high school. The great news is that the cleaning of affected areas and work on the HVAC system are progressing well, and we are still on track to reopen the building to students and staff for instruction on Monday.

However, the work to the either replace or encapsulate and remove dust and debris from the ductwork in the oldest HVAC system, in order to increase the system’s efficiency, will need to continue during after school hours for the next few weeks.

So, what does this mean for our community? Firstly, as was the case when we continued work after last spring’s fire, the HVAC systems throughout the building will be completely shut down as work continues. Students and staff should dress accordingly over the coming weeks.

Secondly, the building will be closed after school hours for the next few weeks. The good news on that front is that we believe the athletic area (gymnasium, locker rooms, etc.) will be available for use after hours starting next week.

While we had originally hoped to move forward with this Friday night’s home football game as planned, unfortunately, as work continues, we are not able to host an event of that magnitude this week. A home football game requires significant use of our indoor facilities, which will not be released to us until Monday. We have worked with Fleetwood to move the game to their facilities at 7 p.m. Activities that were scheduled for Friday night’s game, including the 2nd Annual Project Live Memorial and Youth Football Night, will be rescheduled for a home game later in the season.

The water polo game scheduled for Thursday will be moved to Reading at 5:30 p.m. Other upcoming Indians athletic events will continue as scheduled, as they are less dependent on the indoor facilities that won’t be released until next week, and do not have the same impact on the school as a home football game with significant community attendance. The Valley Soccer games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and Upper Perk Indian Youth Football game scheduled for Sunday at the high school will be moved to the middle school.

Some other future events may need to be adjusted, but the UPHS Open House scheduled for Wednesday, September 19 at 6:30 p.m. will continue as planned. We will keep you updated on future events as necessary, should they require a venue or date change.

Again, I want to thank you all for your patience as the district works to address this issue. We will keep you updated as work continues to progress.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools


Sent on September 14 to all district families and staff:

Dear Upper Perk Community -

I am pleased to inform you that the high school passed its first round of air quality testing as moisture and mold remediation efforts continue. Work and testing will continue until it is determined that the building is safe for students and staff to resume instruction.

As of now, we remain on track to open on Monday. We will be operating on a two hour delay schedule to allow teachers time to prepare their classrooms. The high school is the only building operating on a two hour delay schedule. All other buildings will be operating on a normal schedule.

Unless anything changes, we also plan to proceed with the high school’s picture day on Wednesday, September 19. Click Here to Order - enter School Code UPERKHS18.

As always the well-being of our students and staff continues to be our top priority. If for any reason, we are unable to open the building on Monday, we will let you know as soon as possible.

Thanks again for your continued patience and understanding.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools


Sent on September 18 to all district families and staff (early afternoon):

Dear UPSD Community -

I wanted to write to you with a brief update on the situation at the high school. We know that a number of questions and concerns have popped up as our high school students and staff returned to school yesterday, and I wanted to take a moment to address them.

We are aware that it was quite hot in parts of the high school yesterday. Though we encouraged students and staff to dress accordingly, and we relocated a number of classes from non-air conditioned rooms to areas with air conditioning, the part of the building with no air conditioning was unfortunately even hotter than anticipated.

Currently, the air conditioning is functioning in all parts of the building except the 100 and 200 wing. To make the part of the building with no air conditioning more comfortable, as the work to replace ductwork continues, today we are bringing in approximately 40-50 portable chillers to bring the temperature down. Additionally, we will continue to relocate classes to areas with fully functioning air conditioning systems.

There have been questions about the air quality testing that was done prior to the return of students and staff. I want to reiterate that the affected areas underwent air quality testing and passed before we resumed instruction on Monday.

Please know that we would not have allowed students and staff back in the building if the experts from 1Source Safety and Health Inc. had not informed us that it was safe to resume classes, based on the air quality test results.

We’re also pleased to share that as anticipated, the indoor athletic facilities are now available for use after school hours. Other high school clubs and activities are also permitted to meet in the building after school, until 4 p.m. when work resumes.

Thanks again for your understanding as we work to get high school operations back to normal with a far more efficient HVAC system in the part of the building that was affected by the moisture and mold.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools


Sent on September 18 to all district families and staff (evening):

Dear UPSD Community -

Apologies for sending two related communications in one day, but with the complexity of the situation at the high school, and the high level of interest in the day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour) changes going on in the building, I feel that it is important to keep everyone in the loop.

I mentioned the portable chillers that would be brought in today to cool the non-air conditioned areas in my previous email. Those chillers are in place, and are either being vented to the outside or the hallways as appropriate. Since this may result in a rise in humidity in the halls, we are moving dehumidifiers to the hallways to keep humidity and moisture in check in those areas.

As you can imagine, combating humidity is a challenging battle that we continue to wage, especially as humidity outside remains quite high. Keeping humidity and the moisture level throughout the building down is vital to ensuring the mold problem doesn’t recur.

This afternoon, we noticed the humidity level was climbing in the auditorium for an unknown reason. The HVAC units that service that part of the building have been checked for all of the concerns that led to our larger moisture problem (the filters and cooling coils are clean and free of debris), and we have Wm. Henderson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Inc. looking into the source of the rising humidity in this area.

We are going to err on the side of caution and close off the auditorium until the humidity problem can be addressed. In addition, we will have BELFOR and 1Source examine the area. Please know that we are taking every step possible to be certain that the building remains safe for our students and staff. We will continue to take steps, with the assistance of BELFOR, to keep the humidity down in the building until this weather breaks.

Per Dr. Carpenter’s email from this afternoon, we will be postponing tomorrow’s high school picture day. We recognize that our students want to look their best for pictures, and that may be easier said than done given the current state of the HVAC system at the high school. We will communicate the new date for picture day in the near future. The UPHS Open House scheduled for tomorrow, September 19 at 6:30 p.m. will continue as planned.

Thanks again for your attention and understanding.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools


Sent on September 21 to all district families and staff:

Dear Upper Perk Community -

As we wind down another challenging week at the high school, I wanted to write to you with an update and some good news.

By the start of school on Monday, the HVAC systems in the high school will be up and running, allowing us to cool the entire building. The only minor exception is that we are waiting on the fabrication of one section of ductwork, which services part of the library. In short, the library is the only space in which the HVAC may still not be at 100% come Monday.

I also wanted to take a moment to update you on the status of the auditorium. In my last email, I informed you that we had a brief period of climbing humidity in that area. We’ve brought the humidity down, and dehumidifiers will remain in the area as a precaution. That area is now open and available for use.

As I told you, we also had 1Source take a close look at the auditorium while it was closed. As a result of the brief period of high humidity, a few very minor spots of surface mold were discovered. While the experts assured us that mold remediation was not necessary in this area, due to the minimal amount that was discovered, we asked BELFOR to clean the room to ensure that the area remains safe for our community to use.

I recognize that the last two weeks have been trying for the high school students, staff and families. I want to say thank you for handling a less-than-ideal situation with grace, as we’ve worked to address the root of the moisture problems in the building.

Please know that the decisions that were made over the last few weeks were done so with both students’ well-being in mind, and their educational needs. The experts at 1Source have continued to assure us that the building is safe for student and staff occupancy, as shown by the air quality test results. I’m grateful for the way our teachers handled this disruption so early in the school year, and for the students’ eagerness to continue learning.

Thanks again, and I hope you all have a great weekend.

Dr. Alexis McGloin
Superintendent of Schools