BIDDEFORD – Three classrooms at Biddeford High School that were closed because of complaints about air quality were reopened on Wednesday.

Principal Britt Wolfe told students over the school intercom that the rooms were reopened after they passed air quality tests. But some parents said it seemed too soon.

“I’m shocked, after last night, that the school is open today,” said Laurie Hale, whose daughter Marina Gagne had an allergic reaction to mold.

Hale talked about her daughter’s experience during a workshop held Tuesday night by city and school officials. The meeting was convened because several students reported headaches and other health problems after being in those classrooms.

School officials said they had tested air quality at least three times this fall, with the school being renovated.

Wolfe said Wednesday that a test done Tuesday showed 100 mold spores per cubic meter — far less than a test that registered 300 to 400 mold spores per cubic meter on Nov. 5.

Despite the tests, Hale kept Gagne out of school Wednesday. School officials said attendance generally was normal.

After Air Quality Management Services found poor air quality in the three rooms earlier this month, the company suggested thorough cleaning, said Phil Radding, the school district’s facilities manager.

On Nov. 24, the custodial staff “deep cleaned” the rooms, removing vent covers and cleaning the walls, he said. The rooms remained sealed Monday and Tuesday so they would not be contaminated before being retested.

Besides mold, dust from the renovation has been an issue, Wolfe said. Construction workers who use stairwells inside the building track in dust, and dust has filtered in through gaps in doors and windows, he said.

Wolfe has asked the company that is renovating the building, Ledgewood Construction, to step up its containment efforts to be comparable with hospital construction.

“There’s different levels of containment and there’s a cost factor,” Wolfe said. “But safety is the most important thing.”

Wolfe also requested an additional custodian during the school day. Currently, only one custodian is on duty during school hours.

Radding said the additional custodian would help keep hallway floors clean throughout the day to reduce the dust tracked in by the construction workers.

Mayor Joanne Twomey has requested a special meeting with Superintendent Sarah-Jane Poli, Wolfe, Radding, Ledgewood Construction, the city’s environmental engineer, Brian Phinney, and at least one representative from Air Quality Management Services.

The meeting will focus on developing an air quality plan for schools throughout the district, Poli said. The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in the adult education conference room at the high school, Twomey said.

“It’s something I thought we needed to do to touch base and make sure we know where we are going,” she said. “This is frustrating, because you don’t want anybody sick.”

Twomey has also drafted a survey that she plans to distribute to faculty and staff members today. The anonymous survey will ask about their overall health, whether they feel that their health is compromised in the building, and how they feel their students are performing in school, Twomey said.

She hopes to receive completed surveys by Friday.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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