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School’s air quality to get closer scrutiny

D-428 hires firm to monitor Cortland Elementary plan

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 11:56 a.m. CST

DeKALB – The air at Cortland Elementary School will be more stringently monitored, school district officials decided Tuesday. 

During their board meeting, DeKalb School District 428 board members unanimously voted to hire Aires Consulting to continuously monitor air quality at the school.

The hire comes 35 days after the Jan. 14 incident when 71 students and staff from Cortland received medical treatment after the odor of old trash from the nearby DeKalb County landfill run by Waste Management infiltrated the building’s ventilation system.

Geoff Bacci, the certified industrial hygienist with Aires Consulting the district hired, reviewed the incident earlier this month, contending the odor was to blame for the incident and suggesting the district implement changes to the school’s air monitoring plan.

For $21,000, Aires will ensure continuous monitoring, maintenance, analysis and monthly reporting on the hydrogen sulflide and carbon monoxide monitors at Cortland. The district will pay a $3,000 initial fee and $1,500 each month from March 1 through Feb. 28, 2015. The money will come from the school’s general operating fund.

Aires will review the existing hydrogen sulfide monitor in the school and address any maintenance needs; review the carbon monoxide air monitoring systems and make recommendations for long-term monitoring; train the staff on the planned responses when hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide are indicated; calibrate the monitors monthly; ensure data is recording accurately; review data monthly; provide monthly reports to the district; arrange for temporary hydrogen sulfide monitoring equipment when the current monitor is down; and provide onsite hydrogen sulfide monitoring when a concentration occurs.

Bacci’s proposal calls for more concrete procedures, which board President Tracy Williams said will be key to ensuring the plan is followed.

“Protocols for the effective use of this equipment will be documented and complied with from this point forward,” Williams said.

The district didn’t search for other firms, which Assistant Superintendent Doug Moeller said was based on the need for an immediate solution. Moeller advised next year, the district would put out a request for proposal or decide to move forward with Aires.

Aires also has a history with Cortland Elementary. Other than its most recent involvement, District 428 engaged Bacci in 2010 after low levels of hydrogen sulfide were detected at the school and the hydrogen sulfide monitor was installed.

Cortland parent Danielle Bryant said while she’s happy the district is taking action, but won’t be completely satisfied unless the district follows through with its plan.

“The problem is similar things were put in place in 2010 and it wasn’t watched,” Bryant said. “So I just want to make sure someone is watching it now.”

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