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Building improvements help lower asthma rates

Date: 9/25/2014

SPRINGFIELD – According to a presentation made at the School Committee meeting on Sept. 18, significant strides have been made in improving the city’s school buildings resulting in a 4 percent decrease in the asthma rate among students.

Before a presentation of a report by Executive Director of the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management Patrick Sullivan on the buildings, the administrations of both Indian orchard Elementary School and Kensington International School for their efforts in reducing the asthma rates in those schools.
Marion Wagner, the school nurse for the Indian Orchard school, said there were many challenges in educating children and parents, but the result has been fewer sick days and less time for students going to the school nurse for treatment.
What has also assisted that effort is the on-going campaign to upgrade the district’s buildings, Superintendent Daniel Warwick said. He noted the average age of the schools in Springfield is 55 years.
Sullivan noted he is entering his seventh year in a partnership with the School Department in addressing the needs of the district’s buildings.
This summer the Pottenger, Dewberry, Lynch and Milton Bradley elementary schools; the Kennedy, South End and Van Sickle middle schools; Central High School, Springfield Public Day School; and Renaissance School were closed to summer program to allow for renovations, Sullivan said.
About $1.5 million was spent on projects that including floor tile abatement and replacement, plumbing repairs, painting and terrazzo floor restoration in the elementary schools. In the three middle schools the work included the installation of new bathroom partitions, painting, the upgrade of bathroom fixtures and floor work.
At Central High School, there was ceramic tile floor restoration, new bathroom partitions, new exterior doors and locker repairs. There was floor work, painting and replacement of 19 interior doors as well as a new heating and cooling system for the gymnasium at the Springfield Public Day High School. At the
There were also security improvements, including new alarms and cameras, at all 10 of the schools.
Sullivan said the decrease in asthma rates might be due in part to on-going initiatives such as the “Green Housekeeping Program” that includes HEPA-filtered cleaning equipment, better cleaning practices and different cleaning products. He added that hazardous material, such as vinyl asbestos floor tiles, has been addressed with more than 50,000 square feel of tile having been properly disposed.
The district is now in the eighth year of a 12-year roof replacement cycle and the eighth year of a ten-year cycle of window replacement, Sullivan said. He noted that seven years ago 15 schools had leaking roofs causing mold.
“We’ve come a long way,” Sullivan said.
Due to steps in buying electricity and improving electrical efficiency in schools, Sullivan said the city has realized $2.3 million annually in energy savings.
The implementation of single stream recycling in the schools has resulted savings as well. Sullivan said $80,000 has been saved in dumpster costs.
He noted that while some of the work has been funded by state through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), much of the work, such as the purchase and installation of new boilers, was through a $10 million bond through the city.
Mayor Domenic Sarno noted the good relationship the city has enjoyed with out-going State Treasurer Stephen Grossman, also the head of the MSBA, and said he would reach out to the new treasurer after the election.