Tzouanakis to reopen Monday, Oct. 1
After more than a month, the Tzouanakis Intermediate School building will reopen on Monday, Oct. 1.
Greencastle Schools Supt. Jeff Hubble made the announcement to Tzouanakis parents and students Wednesday, saying that all rooms had gotten the “all clear” for the mold problems that forced the building closure in late August.
With students returning to class on Monday, Friday, Sept. 28 will be an e-learning day, giving Tzouanakis teachers and staff members a day to move back into their normal classrooms.
The announcement came out of the blue for many in the community following a Monday-evening meeting in which officials were reticent to give a timetable on returning to the building.
Best-case scenarios seemed to involved two or three weeks, and even those came with caveats.
White said such responses were by design, as in the early stages following the Aug. 27 closure, school officials kept emphasizing best-case scenarios then having to deliver bad news.
“We really wanted to be as vague as possible but still answer questions,” White said of Monday’s meeting.
But even their best estimates didn’t involve reopening in just one week.
However, in a testament to the power of citizens speaking their minds, Monday’s meeting may have caused some of the experts on the team assisting GCSC with cleaning and testing to reassess ways to get the school opened more quickly.
It was a meeting in which a number of parents, most notably parents of fifth-graders having to attend class at Greencastle High School, shared the difficulties of shortened instruction time and 10-year-olds in an inappropriate environment.
At least one parent even suggested that attending class in the mold might be preferable to continuing at the high school.
“The board and everyone there heard what an inconvenience — and that’s putting it lightly — this has been,” White said. “I think the cleaning folks and the industrial hygienist were really moved at that meeting so they brought extra people in.”
White said he and Hubble stayed for at least an hour after the meeting talking to Erica Graham of Moore Advanced Service Group, industrial hygienist Steve Ambro of AP Inspections and Environmental Services and community members. At that time, a different plan was conceived.
Graham said that if crews could close off the Tzouanakis media center for the time being and focus on the rest of the school, reopening could come much sooner.
Then, when fall break comes in a little over two weeks, crews can spend the week focusing on the media center.
“That was a big change,” White said, “to not focus on the media center and get reopened.”
With that idea in mind, Moore also brought in extra crews following Monday’s meeting.
“They have double crews over there,” White said. “Things really started clicking over there yesterday and today.”
Then came the Tuesday-evening test of all seven rooms previously affected. Ambro’s tests of all the rooms came back Wednesday with no reading for aspergillus/penicillium, the mold that had caused all the consternation.
With the positive tests in hand, Hubble — sounding more cheerful than in previous auto-calls to parents — made his announcement that school will reopen Monday.
“By that time, unit vents in all rooms will have been cleaned and sanitized,” Hubble said. “All surfaces and personal belongings in classrooms will also have been cleaned and sanitized. The air in all classrooms has been tested and deemed safe. We will continue to monitor air quality.”
The ongoing work has to do with cleaning the unit vents of all classrooms, beyond the heavy-duty cleaning that has been completed in the mold-affected classrooms.
Hubble said transportation and food service schedules will also return to normal and that all after-school activities will be back.
Following Hubble’s message to parents, Tzouanakis Principal Jon Strube sent out his own to share details of Friday’s e-learning day as staff members prepare the building for students to return.
“This is a day where students will not report to school, rather they will complete their work at home or other location,” Strube said. “To make this easier for all involved, we are sending home a detailed letter and a small packet with students Thursday. A copy of this letter will also be posted on the TZ webpage.”
Work from this day will be due Wednesday, Oct. 3. Additionally, teachers will be available to answer questions by email between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday.
While school officials had known of some mold growth issues since at least mid-July, it was on Aug. 27 that they discovered that the level of mold spores in the air of the school were not being monitored.
After school was canceled for Tzouanakis students the following day, a relocation plan was announced. For the last month, third-grade students have had class at Deer Meadow Primary, fourth-graders at Ridpath Primary and fifth-graders first at McAnally, and then at Greencastle High School.