Editorial: Fresh air... quality in Wilton

The stir over the quality of air in Wilton schools will perhaps be laid to rest with Tuesday’s action by the Board of Education.

The board voted to hire a second company to undertake a comprehensive indoor air quality assessment of Miller-Driscoll school. This will begin early next month and should be completed by the end of March, Superintendent of Schools Gary Richards said. The assessment will focus on temperature, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulates, humidity, and microbial samples. The new company, TRC Environmental, will also conduct a radon test. The cost will be a bit over $21,000.

The radon test is actually a repeat of a flawed test conducted last fall by another company.

This is a small price to pay for peace of mind of parents who were becoming increasingly anxious over the air their little ones were breathing, especially considering the age of the school and the fact it is scheduled for a major — and costly — renovation.

There are two areas of concern regarding this issue. The first is the quality of the air in our schools, and this new round of testing should give us the results needed to move forward.

The second is just as troubling, a lack of compliance with state statutes regarding this issue. The state requires the board of education and administration to keep maintenance records of HVAC systems for a period of five years. District officials say the maintenance was done, but Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly acknowledged the work was not properly documented. He said this was “unintentional” and told The Bulletin earlier this month the district is “implementing a plan to ensure it happens in a timely fashion.”

It has also been established that the district was late in ordering the original radon test for Miller-Driscoll that took place last fall. In addition, the state requires districts to inspect and evaluate indoor air quality at schools that have been built, renovated or replaced on or after Jan. 1, 2003, and those results must be posted on the school websites. Wilton High School and Miller-Driscoll fall under this statute, but when The Bulletin checked earlier this month there was no report on the high school website and the Miller-Driscoll report had been posted approximately one year late.

Clearly, school districts are under a lot of pressure from the state with mandates for reporting on a wide variety of issues, but we all must live within the law. And while these lapses may have been a simple matter of human error — not intentional disregard for the safety of children and staff — they are still lapses that must be rectified. When it comes to such elements as gases, mold and various microbes, trouble is not always apparent, so just because everything seems all right, that should not be the assumption.

The board of education and school officials need to ensure all necessary protocols are in place for future testing. And when the results are in next month, they must be made readily available. If they show a problem, that will need to be dealt with in a most timely fashion.