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GIRARD SCHOOL Officials suspect clogged intakes

By Tim Yovich

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The air intakes can be cleaned only from inside the building.
GIRARD -- City school and health officials are looking at clogged air intakes as a possible cause of air quality problems in Girard Intermediate School.
"I'm hoping we found the smoking gun," health commissioner James Dobson said.
Dobson said he was stunned to see a clogged intake last week, calling attention to all the work that has been done on the ventilation system to resolve nagging problems.
"They're plugged solid. There's no fresh air getting in. Stale air is being circulated," Dobson said.
Schools Superintendent Marty Santillo and Dobson said blocked intakes could be causing high carbon dioxide levels and temperature fluctuations in some classrooms.
Mold found in past
The building was once closed because of mold. After remedial work, such as carpet removal and installation of new duct work, high and low temperatures and high carbon dioxide readings persist.
Santillo had drop-ceiling tiles removed in two rooms, doors cut in the ducts and the intake blown clean from the inside.
Dobson said that when he returned to the school Friday and tested one room, temperature and carbon dioxide levels had returned to normal.
Dobson said he found all 10 intakes on the first floor were clogged. He assumes all second-floor intakes are blocked.
Dobson said the intakes are located above windows and are covered with louvers so water can't seep in, thus making the screens impossible to clean from the outside.
To clean the screens from the inside, Dobson and Santillo explained, doors were cut into the ducts so dust blocking the intakes could be blown off the screens from the inside.
Dobson said the mesh covering on the intakes is similar to that found in a residential screen door and questions if holes in the screen shouldn't be larger.
Santillo said it's possible the intakes were blocked by dust created during construction of the building.
Not up to standards
A first-floor intake was looked at last Thursday after Dobson sent a letter to Santillo that day pointing out he found measurements of temperature and carbon dioxide levels "beyond the recommended norms for school classrooms in the state" in several rooms.
The recommended classroom temperature is between 68 and 72 degrees.
One room was 74 with several windows open. Another was 60 degrees, and another 66 degrees, though the thermostat was set at 72.
A teacher complained that pupils became lethargic in some circumstances in the warm room and a teacher in one of the colder rooms said a constant temperature couldn't be maintained.
Concerning high carbon dioxide readings, one room had a level of 1,255 parts per million, 159 ppm above the maximum of the outside level.