BIDDEFORD — School officials have called on Larry Mare, an engineering technician in the Maine Bureau of General Services, to investigate air quality issues at Biddeford High School, Mayor Joanne Twomey said during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Residents addressed the council during the meeting regarding recent air quality concerns at the high school, which is in the second stage of a nine-phase renovation.

Three classrooms were closed last week and tested by Air Quality Management after two students had severe allergic reactions. The rooms were reopened Dec. 1, after test results revealed lower mold counts than tests taken Nov. 5.

In addition to concerns about mold, Principal Britt Wolfe said school officials were addressing increased dust from the renovation work. School and city officials met Thursday to discuss steps to reduce the spread of dust, including having an additional custodian on duty during the day and stepping up Ledgewood Construction’s containment efforts as it moves forward with renovations.

Lisa O’Rourke Goulet and Mary-Ann Noyes said they have kept their children out of school since the classrooms were closed last week. Goulet said she was pleased to hear that Mare has been called in to give a second opinion.

“My biggest concern is with the crystal and silica dust that is potentially there (from the construction),” Goulet told the council. “If we feel like it cannot be a safe environment, we need to find another place for the kids to be.”

Noyes said Mare should have been called in sooner. She encouraged other parents who may have children experiencing symptoms from exposure to mold or dust to contact school and city officials.

Councilor Rick Laverriere suggested that the council and school board schedule a special workshop on air quality issues. Twomey said it is important for the council to stay informed, but the jurisdiction is the school board’s.

She said more tests are planned, and the school board and the construction company have checked with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for construction standards.

Twomey said she also has reviewed anonymous survey responses from school staff members. Some indicated that they were concerned about the air quality.

“There are more that are saying and thinking it’s starting to be a panic situation,” she said. “I don’t want this to be a panic situation.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]