'We're very excited to bring the students back': Westport middle school mold free and set to reopen

A rental industrial strength dehumidification system has been set up at Coleytown Middle School to address the school's ongoing issues with mold growth. Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2018.

A rental industrial strength dehumidification system has been set up at Coleytown Middle School to address the school's ongoing issues with mold growth. Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2018.

Sophie Vaughan / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Coleytown Middle School is set to reopen in January — ending a two year saga and a $32 million project.

On Monday, the Board of Education reviewed a final presentation on the remediation project at CMS, which closed in 2018 due to mold problems. Newfield Construction was hired as construction manager, while EnviroMed was hired as the industrial hygienists.

The renovated building will open on Jan. 4 for teachers only, and then open to students on Jan. 5.

“I’m happy to say in addition to opening on the fourth of January we’ve made very good decisions by hiring both Newfield and EnviroMed, they worked great together,” Don O’Day, chair of the CMS Building Committee, said.

Larry Cannon, president of EnviroMed, said he’s spent the last 36 years working in the area of industrial hygiene. In addition to being a certified industrial hygienist, he said he was a certified mold consultant.

“Every shred of information, every test passed through my eyes,” Cannon said. “I had approved of all the testing that was done, and certified the cleanliness of each of the rooms in the school.”

John Luby, project engineer at EnviroMed, said an initial assessment of the school in 2019 found a number of problems, including water infiltration through classroom windows, water damage under windows and structural issues. He said this compounded the school’s mold problems.

The project included a new roof and replaced windows.

Furniture was removed from the building, stored in an off-site climate controlled storage facility, and then later disinfected and tested.

“No furniture was put back in service without a passing test,” Luby said.

Mold and water abatement was also removed, and the building water-proofed. New interior systems were also installed, including a new HVAC system.

Luby said a building management system was installed as well as a temperature monitor system. Rooms were also cleaned, inspected and tested.

Board members roundly thanked the committee, school staff, and more in seeing the project through to its completion.

“We appreciate the thorough job of doing it, and doing it right,” BOE member Elaine Whitney said. “We’re very excited to bring the students back.”

BOE member Lee Goldstein asked how the knowledge learned from the project could help to improve building maintenance moving forward.

O’Day said moving forward it would be important to not assume there are structural challenges at other buildings just because there aren’t current warning signs.

“If you ignore it, it only gets worse,” he said, adding a thorough, strong and effective maintenance staff was important.

O’Day said the CMS Building Committee was going to continue to assist the schools facilities department through the transition process. He added Schools Director of Facilities Ted Hunyadi has been trained in any new equipment to aid that process.

He said a system has also been implemented to allow custodians or maintenance workers to take photos on their phones if they see anything wrong, and have access to a database with any necessary procedures.

“It’s all very millennial...but it’s there and it’s easy to see,” he said.

BOE Chair Candice Savin said the community had hopes and demands that if the building was going to be restored, it was going to be done right.

“That’s really what you all have delivered on,” she said. “I know everyone has said already how grateful they are, but I just want to reiterate the work you guys have done has been exemplary, the building is obviously in excellent condition, really suitable for our students, and we’re all really thrilled about that.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com