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May 15, 2013

$1M more approved for Guilmette project

Cost to eradicate mold and rebuild Lawrence school grows to $7.5M

LAWRENCE — The cost of wiping the mold infestation from the Guilmette School jumped to $7.5 million last night when city councilors voted to borrow another $1 million to finish the work after an hour of questioning that focused on whether the mold is gone for good.

That concern re-emerged last week when another outbreak of mold was discovered in a first-grade classroom, sickening a teacher, causing the relocation of 21 students and prompting a cleanup costing as much as $10,000.

“This matter has been going on for a while, so we’re a little concerned (and) not sure if there’s mold left,” Councilor Daniel Rivera said as the hour-long session began. “So my first question is, where are we with the mold? Will we be spending money today and then go back and tear things apart again?”

“We don’t know whether it’s pervasive throughout the school,” city Budget Director Mark Ianello responded. “Chris (Merlino, the school department’s director of facilities) does not believe it is.”

The hygienist who tested the classroom for the new mold outbreak last week concluded that the mold came from a science project and was not connected to the widespread infestation that shut the entire elementary and middle school for most of the 2010-11 school year, forcing all 1,100 students and 100 staff to relocate to other buildings around the city.

The hygienist, Environmental Sampling and Testing Services of Ashburnham, Mass., retested the classroom Monday after it was sanitized over the weekend. Students will be returned to the classroom if the results, which are expected this week, come back clean.

Frank McLaughlin, the president of the union that represents the city’s public school teachers, said the state Department of Health will return to Guilmette on Tuesday to test the entire building. Anne Roach, a spokeswoman for the department, responded to a request to confirm the new inspection with an email saying only that she had no updates.

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