PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A few classrooms at Reid Middle School have been closed off because of high levels of carbon dioxide.
Superintendent Jason McCandless said on Wednesday that recent testing done by the state revealed the issue. He said the elevated levels of carbon dioxide stem from the heating exhaust system and that will need to be redone in February.
"We took them offline as heating season began out of an abundance of concern," McCandless said.
McCandless said the issue appears to have "been going on for some time." The classrooms are now closed off and he said the city's Building Maintenance Department has worked on the issue and identified the cause.
Contractors will be brought in to repair the exhaust chimney. That will mean the entire building will need to be disconnected from the heating system and an external unit will be brought in to heat the classrooms.
"We anticipate we will continue with school without a hitch," McCandless said.
Meanwhile something stinks at the new Taconic High School. Sewer odors have been reported at times in the classrooms.
The builders of the project are scrambling to find and repair the source and an industrial hygienist has been on site to help identify any needed repairs. The superintendent added that there is flexibility to move students should the odor infiltrate a certain classroom.
"It's gotten better because of a massive amount of work over Christmas break," McCandless said.
The new building opened just this year but it is not uncommon for new buildings of such a size to have a number of small problems.
"Taconic is a tremendous gift to the students and this is a hiccup," McCandless said.
Meanwhile, Williams, Sterns, Capeless, and Egremont are next in line for LED lighting. The School Department has been changing out the lights at all of the schools over the years. Conte, Morningside, Allendale, and Crosby were the latest to be replaced.
In other business, the School Committee recognized the retirement of Officer Michael Ortega who has taught Drug Abuse Resistance Education for the last 11 years. Ortega held his 100th and final DARE graduation this year. McCandless described Ortega as an "incredibly hardworking and big-hearted man" who also coached cross country.
Officials from both the School Department and the Police Department held a ceremony to honor Ortega to recognize the work he's done. School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon also praised Ortega and spoke of the importance of the DARE program. She said the program has evolved from the early days of just saying no to drugs and now instill life lessons. McCandless added that the program also shows students that those in the Police Department are friendly.
"It is all about making proper decisions," Yon said.
The School Department is also pushing its open houses. Pittsfield High School will be open Thursday (today), Jan. 10, and Taconic High on Thursday, Jan. 17, both from 6 until 8 p.m. for area residents to see everything the schools have to offer firsthand.
McCandless said the events are not restricted to just families considering either school but for anybody who would like to see the schools.
"This is not just for eighth-graders, this is not just for prospective students. These are open houses," McCandless said. The department has been marketing the open houses with billboards and radio advertisements.
Also on Wednesday, McCandless reported that the schools have hired District Management Group to take a multi-month look at the special education work the city schools are doing. The independent look is hoped to provide areas in which local leaders can implement better practices, have new tools, and be more efficient in providing special education services.
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