hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

April 18, 2013

Children suffer with school rug that stinks

City will replace Hunking library carpet after complaint

By Bruce Amaro
Correspondent

---- — Hunking School students and staff have been enduring a stench whenever they are in the school library.

But soon they will have to tolerate the odor no more.

The library will get a new carpet later this month to replace the foul-smelling one that is there now.

The condition of the current carpet drove School Committee President Paul Maliocchetti to convince his fellow committee members to support installing a new rug.

“I don’t know how that got by us after all the other work we’ve done on the school, but it was pretty bad,” Magliocchetti said about the odor coming from the rug.

The other work at Hunking he referred to was done last summer, when Haverhill spent close to $400,000 to repair structural deterioration. That damage that forced the city to close one wing of the building during the previous year and move 150 students to another school.

The city plans to eventually build a new school to replace Hunking.

Magliocchetti said he is uncertain how much the city will pay for the new carpet, but, “It won’t cost much.”

Superintendent James Scully told the School Committee last week that he did not have a cost figure, but that the school library will get a new rug within a week from now.

Every Wednesday, Magliocchetti, walks the halls of Haverhill schools. He wants to see what’s happening on a typical school day, review the condition of the schools, talk with maintenance people and learn about any problems that should be addressed.

Last week at Hunking, he said he encountered the foul air in the school’s library.

“I wouldn’t work in that room,” he said. “It’s not right to expect the school children to try and get anything done in that kind of atmosphere.’’

Hunking is expected to close in less than five years. The state has ordered the city to do a feasibility study for a new school. With the help of the Massachusetts School Building Authority that has agreed to pay up to 72 percent of the estimated $800,000 study, the city has begun planning the new school. The city is paying the balance of $250,000 for the study.

Haverhill is in line for state money to pay most of the cost of building the new school.

Scully said the main problem with Hunking, which was built in the late 1950s, was that it was constructed on wetlands.

In October 2011, the building was found to be unsafe and needed immediate structural repairs to guard against some classrooms collapsing. Eight classrooms in the north wing were in danger, officials said.

In February 2012, Scully received an estimate from Castagna Construction of Newburyport to repair the building for $349,300.

The repairs, done last summer, did not permanently solve the structural problems, but strengthened the building to make it usable for students for a few more years while the city builds a new school, Scully said.

In early 2012, teachers complained about illnesses and rashes they said they believed were caused by poor air quality at Hunking. At that time, an environmental expert told the city that the building has poor ventilation, but the air was still safe to breathe.