REEDSVILLE - The same thing that caused local uproar over the safety of sending students to Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate School also may ease parental concern: transparency.
Mifflin County School District Superintendent James Estep and school principal Michael LaMarca met with a small group of parents on Monday evening at the school. As the administration led a tour of the building, they answered questions about security, health and project oversight.
The walk-through was held in response to public outcry from parents who attended an open house event last week and saw wires hanging from ceilings, closed turned to Facebook to voice their concerns, and several families opted not to send their children to the opening day of school on Thursday.
Sentinel photos by BUFFIE BOYER
Mifflin County School District Superintendent James Estep, right, gives a tour of the Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate School Monday to parents concerned about the condition of the school during construction.
Sentinel photos by BUFFIE BOYER
The main entrance to Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate School now has a tile ceiling in place among other signs of construction progress in the past few days.
Kelly Sunderland, whose son attends the school, was one of them. She also attended the walk-through on Monday night and brought a list of concerns collected from parents throughout the district.
Estep addressed her concerns one by one while parents walked through the cafeteria, which was previously a source of contention. Estep said flooring is expected to be placed in mid-September. Since last week's tours, the cafeteria restrooms also had been completed, and the water fountains were mounted and in working order. Estep said an inspection of the kitchen is set for 9 a.m. today, and hot lunch is expected to be served beginning on Wednesday.
Also high on the agenda was air quality testing. Estep said a test was conducted Friday on six stations throughout the school, but the district has not received results. He said the results are expected within days, and air quality will likely be tested on a monthly basis.
Also during the tour, Estep said:
New bedding has been ordered for the nurse's suite.
There is no sprinkler system in place for hallways or classrooms, and it is not required by building codes.
The asbestos abatement has been completed throughout the building except for LaMarca's former office. The office will be completed during times when children are not at the school.
Temporary partitions have been constructed to separate different phases of the project. Padlocks secure the doors.
Two water fountains have been installed on the second floor since the last walk-through.
There is an emergency plan in place. He couldn't expand on the details for security reasons, but ensured parents that a fire alarm system is in operation throughout the building. Emergency exit routes are updated continuously and posted on the walls in classrooms.
A swipe-card entrance system is expected to be in operating order for teachers by the end of September.
"I think, the way the school looked today, I feel comfortable sending my son (to school)," Sunderland said after the tour. "It looks way better than it did Wednesday night.
Sunderland said she still wanted to discuss the situation with her husband, but felt "pretty positive" that their son would attend school today.
"I am concerned still about the installation of the ceiling and the floor," she explained. "Just that it truly is not done while students are in the area."
Overall, Sunderland said many of the issues she saw Wednesday night had been resolved and that she feels more confident in the safety of the building after touring it again on Monday. She also recommended that Estep consider a committee of parents who could maintain direct contact with LaMarca and the construction crew without having to go through administration to voice their concerns. Estep said he would bring the recommendation to the administration.
Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate School was closed to students on Friday while inspectors completed final walk-throughs and issued a temporary occupancy permit for the school. School opened again on Monday.
Another public tour is set for 3:30 to d5 p.m. Wednesday at the school.