Meadowbrook Parents Say No To Construction While School In Session

A group met Wednesday to formulate a plan of action to make sure construction — particularly asbestos removal — does not take place with students present.

Meadowbrook parents expressed determination at a meeting Wednesday night to make sure renovations did not take place while school was in session. In particular, they expressed concerns about removing asbestos floor tiles while students were present.

About 20 parents turned out to a meeting in the Community Room at the EG Police Department to discuss plans designed to solve the stubborn moisture problems at Meadowbrook Farms. In March, the School Committee voted to approve a $2.3 million bid by Tower Construction to replace the floor, roof and HVAC system at the K-3 school. The question last night was when the work should take place.

Under a proposal bid on by Tower, the work would start in June, as soon as school was out, and continue through summer 2013. In other words, construction would be taking place throughout the 2012-13 school year, with classes moving around to accommodate the construction. Building officials have said safety precautions would be in place throughout the construction. When asked about the removal of the asbestos flooring, officials have said stringent standards dictate that safety precautions are paramount.

The parents at the meeting Wednesday night were unconvinced.

“If they’re doing the asbestos work, there’s no way in the world my kid’s going to that school,” said parent Mike Zarrella. “It’s the most unhealthy thing out there.”

“Asbestos is toxic to every single person,” said another parent. “I don’t want my child to be 25 years old and having tumors,” said a third.

While asbestos removal seemed to be everyone’s primary concern, parents also spoke of the problems that could arise if children were exposed to construction noise, as well as the disruption from having to move classrooms every three months during the 2012-13 year.

Parent David Gecawich argued for a plan that would start construction in June and would continue until the work was completed — as soon as December 31 if work were to take place around the clock.

That plan and other variations are being priced out now. The School Committee expects prices for those alternative plans when they meet next April 24.

Parents at the meeting Wednesday said they wanted to keep up the pressure on the School Committee and spoke of the need for a strong presence at the next meeting.

“If there isn’t somebody keeping their eye on the prize, they will rush it through,” said PTG co-president Kathleen Johnson of the School Committee. “We need bodies in the seats. We need to show up.”

Parent Bambi Lukens, who has been in attendance at many School Committee meetings this school year, expressed distrust in the panel’s desire to engage the public. “You go to any of the SC meetings, and they do not want you there,” she said.

Parents also talked about the School Building Committee. They want members of the Meadowbrook community represented on that panel. Right now, no one with a direct connection to the school is on it. Ron Areglado, the former principal, had been on the committee but stepped down when he resigned his position for health reasons earlier this year.






Wendy Fachon April 12, 2012 at 11:50 AM
WOW! Have been a parent in EG for 15 years. Aside of this very serious issue of asbestos... How many times has the floor at Meadowbrook been replaced over the past 15 years? How much tax payer money has gone down the drain that lies over this wetland area? What is the guarantee that the problem will be solved this time? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different result. Please think this one through from a long-term perspective.
Wendy Fachon April 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Here's an innovative solution: Replace Meadowbrook school building with Magic School buses for a couple million. A magic school bus would have seat belts and tray tables like airplanes. It would have Smartboard screens and headphones. Frenchtown School would serve as home base for all K-3 students. Every other day the students would travel to an outdoor classroom (trails, farms, markets, wildlife refuges, historic neighborhoods, beach) or local museum or business. Turn Meadowbrook property into an outdoor educational facility. Anyone else have some innovative thoughts?
Kathleen Johnson April 12, 2012 at 12:35 PM
While we appreciate the coverage of this story, I am concerned that the tag line "Meadowbrook Parents Band Together Against Construction Plan" is a little misleading. In fact, several people in attendance last night fought long and hard to ensure that the much needed renovations were approved by the Town Council. We expect that the School Committee and the administration will protect the health and well-being of our children and our teachers/staff by carrying out the work while no one is in the building. Hopefully, your subscribers will read the article in it's entirety to get the "entire picture".
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) April 12, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Good point Kathleen. The subhead is meant to hone in on your specific issue. Thanks for the feedback.
GameMaker April 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The statements quoted here in regards to asbestos are bizarre to say the least, especially given current abatement methods. People need to research before getting upset...
E.G. Resident April 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Gamemaker, we understand this process is highly regulated, but it doesn't always workout as planned. Would you want your children in an environment where mold and asbestos are just around the corner? In addition, would you want them in an active construction site with all that comes with it...i.e., noise, trucks, strangers walking about the building? Before I do anything in the schools, I have to have a BCI check. Will all of these construction workers have these checks? Say what you will, but I do not feel my children are safe in this environment. Other alternatives exist.
Matt April 12, 2012 at 01:32 PM
We recently purchased a home close to the school, and our son is supposed to start in the fall. This is concerning.
GameMaker April 12, 2012 at 01:42 PM
No argument, EG..there are any number of good reasons why it's not a great idea to try to keep the school open while the renovation is ongoing. But no, they're not going to sprout tumors... :)
Carl I. Hoyer April 12, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Meadowbrook was built in 1968 at a cost of $1,000,000. After it was built, it was learned that it wasn't needed ! But, can't leave a new school empty so all the kids from Hanaford were transferred there, mine among them. When Hanaford was later needed, it cost thousands to bring it up to current code.per state law. In the meantime, Meadowbrook had (guess what) water problems. Walk down the corridors and you could hear "squish,squish" as you walked. Many "fixes" later, it is STILL a problem with no guarantees of resolution. The school has had water problems from "Day One" and continues to have them, no matter what is done. We can put a man on the moon, but we can't seem to be able to fix a water problem ? I understand one consultant said if it was fixed in a certain way, the fix would last indefinitely (and, thereby could have a warranty). However, SBS seems to disagree and indicates there can not be any express warranties as well as inferentially suggesting that implied warranties would be specifically and contractually excluded. What a conundrum ! The school should never have been built at its present location, but, for whatever reason, we continue to pour tax dollars into this bottomless "black hole". I have opined previously that perhaps we should "bite the bullet", tear it down and build another school at a different location. However,the problem is twofold; do we REALLY need it and given the existing indebtedness of the Town, is this economically feasible?
Mark Loomis April 12, 2012 at 03:48 PM
What a logical argument...one that has apparently escaped this town for many years!!!
firefly April 12, 2012 at 04:32 PM
OF COURSE, this has been looked into. Meadowbrook is completely filled with children preschool to 3rd. WHY do you keep asking if it is needed? Where do you suggest putting the children who currently attend the school? And why is the history from 1965 relevant today? Fixing the water issue is not rocket science. You just need to pay for it to be done correctly with a proper ventaltion system and you actually have to maintain it and not let the drainage clog (which it has in the past).
Mutato April 12, 2012 at 06:33 PM
GameMaker April 12, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Concerned, what exactly _is_ the percent chance that a child will develop mesothelioma as a result of an abatement that complies with all current statutes? Having a group of parents get hysterical in New Jersey seems little justification for doing so in RI.
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Not to rehash all this, but for the benefit of parents that haven’t followed the issue, here is some history. There are also numerous patches articles on “Meadowbrook” that you can read. In 2008, 61% of voters of EG voted to “fully fix” Meadowbrook, build Cole Middle School and improve the High School. Many of the affirmative voters were Meadowbrook parents. Specifically, according to the RI Department of Education letter to the Board of Regents for Secondary and Elementary Education, dated 4/18/2008, regarding the Approval of Necessity of School Construction Projects in East Greenwich, attachment 2-e Meadowbrook Farms, the approved project is described as follows: "The Meadowbrook School has historically had significant issues with water intrusion within the flooring system and resulting mold and mildew. After several studies, a new floor system was installed around [2001]. The updated flooring system addressed the water intrusion issue and raised the building floor three inches which required modifications to all existing doors, trim and entrances. At the present time, the subfloor system is failing with major movement causing extensive cracking and lifting of the VCT floor tiles along the edge of the board. The underlayment is crumbling in several areas causing "sink holes" to form. This situation is forcing the school district to patch and replace a large number of tiles every summer - tiles which break again within months of replacement.”
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Project Justification: * “This project reduces long term operational costs by replacing a TEMPORARY FLOORING SYSTEM with a PERMANENT system” * “This project meets the asset protection and building maintenance requirements of the school construction regulations approved by the Regents on 5/24/07. The regulations districts to develop implement and maintain a comprehensive asset protection plan for every school building. The addresses deficiencies and preventative maintenance to maximize the useful life of the facility." Also, mold has been reported by various parents and faculty, especially those with asthma, and the mold is kept under control when detected as a temporary solution. In addition, the chemicals used to treat mold have been raised as concerns. These are the reasons why the building needs to be fixed permanently. According to the EPA, a relative humidity level of 50% or less must be maintained to prevent mold growth. Additional engineering studies by SGH and SMMA were performed since 2008, concluding that relative humidity level of the floor was 95% or higher throughout the school floor due to a variety of factors including the dilapidated top floor layer, condensation under the top floor, cold air entering the roof vent tubes, 40+ year old HVAC system and lack of a moisture membrane which normally would be installed in new building.
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM
SMMA stated that elevated humidity leads to mold growth which is unhealthy for children. The experts also performed numerous soil samples during heavy flooding periods and concluded that the water table is below 6 feet, dispelling all myths that the ground is built on wetlands. The school is built on land classified by DEM and SGH engineering as “dry land”. This led to various options be heavily discussed by the BC, SC and TC and the conclusion was that in order to “fully fix” Meadowbrook PERMANENTLY, the floor, HVAC/air balance system and roof required replacement at an expert estimate of $4.4 million. The $4.4 million estimate included $1.6 million approved in the 2008 bond, $1.1 million for the roof approved by Town Council in Feb, 2011 and an additional $1.7 million approved by Town Council on 9/26/2011. On 3/20/2012, The School Committee awarded the project to the low bidder for $2.03 million, which is $2.3 million less than estimated by the experts. Many parents fought for the renovations but concerns were raised in late March for two reasons: 1) the School Committee awarded the substantially low bid for 46% of expert estimates, 2) the present plan is to allow students in school after the asbestos abatement work has started and before it ends.
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
In my view, parents I speak to support the “FULL FIX” for Meadowbrook but demand that (a) students not be allowed into the building until the large asbestos abatement job is completed (i.e. vacate the building, temporarily relocate the students to s safe haven, do all of the work, clean it, test the air, test the air again and once all work is complete and certified, students would return). In addition, parents expect that be done CORRECTLY, METHODICALLY WITHOUT ERROR, BY LICENSED PROFESSIONALS, ONCE AND FOR ALL and reserve the Town-Council / Voter approved bond funds of $4.4 million without the introduction of cost cutting measures that compromise quality, subject children, faculty and staff to personal injury from asbestos and increase risk that the job will go the route of haphazard fixes to Cole will need to be rebuilt for approx. $15 million in the not so distant future. At a minimum, the 2nd graders can be moved up to Hanaford which takes at least student and keeps them safe and reduces relocation costs. If it costs a $100-500K to relocate the rest of the students temporarily to trailers or other open space in other buildings, then so be it. The cost of a human life is worth more than $500K and we are talking about abating 43,000 square feet of asbestos floor in a building with serious negative air flow issues.
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Numerous student population enrollment studies show that we need 4 elementary schools --- the kids at Meadowbrook are crammed into a dilapidated trailer due to congestion. We need 4 elementary schools. Period. A good outcome can result if the School Committee selects the option to get the occupants out of the building temporarily until all work is completed (the option cited as straight through from June – December) and reserve (and expect to spend) the amount estimated your experts to do RIGHT: $4.4 million. Consequently, the children will be safe and the taxpayers will have preserved a valuable asset INDEFINITELY and avoid a $15 million school rebuild which taxpayers cannot stomach on the heels of the Cole rebuild.
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM
From your comments, it is clear that back in the late 1960s, early 1970s, your child attended Hanaford and for some reason, the school department decided to close Hanaford and transfer your child to Meadowbrook when it was built in approx. 1970. It is understandable that the unplanned school transfer from Hanaford to Meadowbrook carried with it an upsetting personal experience. However, it is now 40 years later. It is well published by the school department based on acredited sources that in the 21st century that we now live, the enrollment numbers and student population projections in present day reality REQUIRE THE SQUARE FOOTAGE OF MEADOWBROOK AND HANAFORD, AND FRENCHTOWN AND ELEDRIDGE. The past is the past, your contribution is appreciated and I am sorry things didn't work out for your child back then. Meadowbrook is needed today for present day students. It needs to be fixed. It is most productive to focus on practical future solutions, not past problems.
EG Tom33 April 13, 2012 at 06:23 PM
@Concerned...with all that spewing you sound like a SC member or on the Building Committe? With all that you have to say I have one question for you and the experts....HOW COME NO WARRANTY THAT THIS WILL WORK? Huh?
Concerned EG Resident April 13, 2012 at 08:16 PM
@EGTom33, I'm a concerned Meadowbrook parent and taxpayer with no affiliation with the School Committee, Building Commitee or Town Council. My primary interests lay with the welfare of my children, their classmates and their service providers. As a taxpayer, a secondary interest is for a fiscally sound decision that preserves town assets like Meadowbrook with all due consideration to quality, experience and service (not just the lowest price). While Cole is a new treasured asset, taxpayers cannot afford to neglect and band-aid Meadowbrook to the point where the school needs to be replaced. We need to properly preserve the buildings to preserve the child occupants inside them. I agree there should be a warranty. My understanding is that there is a 1 year warranty period. I'm with you that it would be nice to have more assurances. But unlike prior fixes, the work is professionally backed by hired architects and engineers and being done by professionals. Most importantly, the status quo is unacceptable. Meadowbrook needs to get fixed, METHODICALLY PLANNED WITHOUT ERRORS, and performed safely without chidren, teachers and staff present until completion.
EG Tom33 April 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM
@Concerned...sorry I didn't mean to offend and agrre if I had a child attending Meadowbrook I would be concerned. The way Cole was built and all the issues I don't trust self-serving SBS and these experts. If they are truely experts the job would come with a warranty that this "so called fix". Why is the price half of what was "professionally estimated". What you are going to get with this "so called fix" is many lawsuits and a Meadowbrook School that is NOT fixed. This is a sham without warranties! When it sounds too good to be true.........


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