Westover extending school year due to mold
STAMFORD — Stamford Public Schools have snow days and heat days. But students from Westover Magnet Elementary School will be making up mold days at the end of the year.
On Oct. 30, officials announced Westover would be closing for a week for mold remediation and assessment after parents spoke out about school conditions and air quality tests bore poor results. By Nov. 2 the timeline had changed, with officials saying the school would be closed indefinitely while the building is remediated and repaired.
Students now need to make up four days from the time between when their school was closed and when they were relocated to an office building owned by the Building and Land Technology. They were spared several makeup days by going on educational field trips while awaiting a new campus.
In a letter to parents dated Jan. 22, Westover Principal Kathy Wunder said students will make up one of the lost days on Feb. 19, which was originally a professional development day and cuts into February break. The other three days will be made up at the end of the school year.
Wunder said the survey was sent out to parents and staff Jan. 7 after discussions with Deputy Superintendent Tamu Lucero.
“It was really our deputy superintendent and myself having conversations and wanting to make sure the decision was inclusive of our entire school community,” Wunder said Monday.
The principal said parents and staff were given about 10 different options, which included combinations of time off around February or April break or at the end of the school year. Wunder and Lucero had already decided one of the makeup days would be Feb. 19 since staff would already be at the school for professional development.
Wunder said the decision to add three days onto the school year won by about 150 votes. The decision, she said, is official.
“What was really important was for them to get the information as soon as possible so they can make arrangements,” Wunder said.
In her letter to parents, Wunder explained Superintendent Earl Kim originally requested a waiver of the 180-day school year requirement from state Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell. After a review, it was decided the request would not be sent to the State Board because it did not meet the standards required to grant a waiver, much to the disappointment of some parents who feel they shouldn’t have to make up the mold days.
“It’s not the kids’ fault or our fault,” said Danielle Viesto, who has two students at Westover.
According to the letter, a survey was sent to parents about how to make up the days missed due to mold. Wunder said parents and staff survey results showed an “overwhelming” preference to adding three days at the end of the school year.
While some parents were unhappy with the survey results, they were pleased with the way the school handled the topic of makeup days.
“I was really happy (Wunder) wanted our input,” Viesto said.
Sari Rosenberg, who has a second-grader at Westover, agreed.
“I actually liked the survey,” Rosenberg said. “What was decided weren’t my choices. I think going longer at the end of the year will probably make many students unhappy.”
As of now, Stamford Public Schools have had no snow days, placing their last day of school on June 14. Westover students would then make up their missing days on June 17, 18 and 19. This, however, all could change, pending any upcoming snow days.
In the meantime, the Westover community is awaiting the fate of their old building on Stillwater Avenue.
“My kids are happy, they’re adjusted well. But I’d like some feedback with the old building,” Viesto said.
It may be awhile before answers arrive. According to Wunder’s letter, estimates and options for addressing water intrusion, remediation and other building issues will be available from KG&D architects by the first week of March. The same firm is working on design options for Coleytown Middle School in Westport, which also closed due to mold concerns.
Results from an abatement program from the hygienist firm Tighe & Bond will be available this week, per Wunder’s letter, and a geotech firm, GZA, has been hired to investigate water intrusion issues and will have a report available on those next week.
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