LAWRENCE — Ridding the Guilmette School of mold could cost more than $2 million, according to several School Committee members.
An e-mail by interim School Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron on Tuesday informed members a full cleanup of the school might cost "in the vicinity of $1.9 million."
But James Vittorioso, the most senior member of the committee, said last night that he's heard the final bill could go as high as $2.5 million.
"It's another devastating blow to the good, hardworking citizens of Lawrence," Vittorioso said.
"This is a mess that's going to put us further in the hole. And those workers who are doing the cleanup are going to have a very good Thanksgiving and a happy Christmas," Vittorioso said.
Bergeron said she remains hopeful that the school — which serves 1,150 students in grades one through eight — will reopen Monday as a cleanup crew of 150 to 175 people continues to work around the clock to make the school safe.
"In terms of the costs, we are working with the insurance adjuster at this time, so I am not ready to put out a final figure," Bergeron said last night, when asked how much the cleanup will cost.
Bergeron met late yesterday with an industrial hygienist and representatives of the company involved in the cleanup. The School Department's insurance adjuster also was on the premises.
"At this time, the work is moving ahead on schedule with the goal of clearing the building this weekend," Bergeron told The Eagle-Tribune.
"We had a couple of spots where mold was found this week: behind cabinets in the lower level and on pipe insulation in the ceiling on the first floor. The cabinets have been removed and the wallboard remediated in this area. The pipe insulation is scheduled for removal tomorrow, so the final cleaning can take place on the first floor and lower level," she said.
Who's responsible and ultimately liable for the mold — the second such occurrence at the school in seven years — may wind up being contested in court. Built in 2002, Guilmette School also closed in October 2003, when mold was discovered in a computer lab that was flooded by a burst sprinkler.
School Committee Vice Chairman Sammy Reyes said members were informed by Bergeron this week that some of the issues related to the problem involved "maintenance versus hidden mold."
Reyes said Bergeron also mentioned there were some concerns that structural deficiencies in the building might be responsible for some moisture buildup that is allowing mold to grow. Bergeron told members she would seek legal advice on possible actions the School Department could take against the contractor overseeing the school's construction, according to Reyes.
"I have a lot of questions about what's happening at Guilmette School, which is in my district," Reyes said.
"Is it a mold problem or is it a maintenance problem? I would like a clarification on that. I'd also like to know whether this is a much bigger problem than we anticipated. With 150 to 175 people working at the site, that's a lot of people," he said.
"This causes me to have other concerns. I didn't know this was the second time the school has had a mold problem. I will be asking questions about that. I will also be asking the superintendent to give us an update of our older buildings to see their condition," he said.
Vittorioso last week called on Mayor William Lantigua, who chairs the School Committee, to investigate conditions in each of several city schools built about the same time as Guilmette, to see whether there might mold problems that were overlooked.
Lantigua could not be reached for comment last night.
Meanwhile, Bergeron has worked out a contingency plan for relocating students should Guilmette School not open Monday.
"I don't think they'll be going back on Monday because I think it's a bigger problem than they stated," Vittorioso said last night.
"And if the cleanup goes into next week, it's going to wind up costing up to $2.5 million — because somebody didn't do their job," Vittorioso said.
"I think this is a building issue. And the question of who's going to pay for it, I think will end up in the courts. But it's still going to cost us thousands of dollars. This is a catastrophe that should never have happened. I just hope we don't have the same problem at the new high school," he said.
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