WEST NEWBURY — Slightly elevated CO2 levels in some areas of the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School can be managed in the short term by strategically placing oscillating fans and occasionally cracking open windows in those classrooms where the problem was identified, Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen told the Pentucket Regional School Committee on Tuesday.
West Newbury representative Chris Wile added a discussion on air quality at Page to the board’s agenda after being contacted by concerned residents.
A report issued by EFI Global, which conducted air quality testing at the school in December, indicated levels of the odorless gas fell slightly outside of recommended standards.
After reviewing the report with an industrial hygienist, Mulqueen decided to proactively install fans in the classrooms where elevated CO2 levels were identified and to instruct staff to occasionally crack a window to help cycle air through the building.
He also met with town officials to discuss long-term remedies for the problem that might include replacement of the mechanical air handlers at the school, a project that could cost upward of $550,000, according to town officials. Mulqueen stressed that CO2 is not a pollutant but rather “a marker to know whether you need circulation of air.”
Chris Reading of West Newbury, who served on the Page Building Committee, told her colleagues that the current air handler unit is so noisy that it can’t be run during the school day. The building committee was aware of the problem but determined that replacing the unit would be cost-prohibitive to the recently completed $10 million project.
At the time the project was approved in 2010, voters were informed that to fully address the building’s needs would actually cost closer to $20 million. A potential Phase 3 of the project, which includes replacing the mechanical ventilation system, carried an estimated $3.4 million price tag when discussed informally last April.