ELLENBURG CORNERS — Construction at Northern Adirondack Central Middle/High School will not be completed in time for the start of the 2012-13 academic year.
Capital improvements to the building have been delayed until vermiculite, an insulation material installed in the school’s exterior walls in the late 1970s, can be removed.
The abatement is expected to be completed before the end of summer vacation, and classes will still begin, as scheduled, on Wednesday, Sept. 5, said Northern Adirondack Superintendent Laura Marlow. However, the building’s library and most of its High School classrooms, which were expected to be ready at the start of the school year, will still be undergoing renovations.
So High School students will receive instruction in middle-school classrooms, as well as in the gymnasium, which will temporarily be partitioned off.
All of the school’s regular courses will still be offered.
Marlow said she expects the permanent High School classrooms to be completed and ready for use sometime in October.
The school’s pool and auditorium have also been undergoing renovations, which are expected to be completed on time this fall.
Though vermiculite itself is not considered a hazardous material, much of the substance sold in the United States between 1919 and 1990 was harvested from a mine near Libby, Mont., that was found to be contaminated by asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is known to be hazardous when airborne. If inhaled, the fibers can cause a serious lung condition known as asbestosis.
Marlow said the district has been aware of the presence of vermiculite in the Middle/High School building for some time and thoroughly tested the area for asbestos particles.
“All our testing has always come back asbestos free,” she said. “Our air sampling has always come back asbestos free.”
NO ADDITIONAL COST
In April 2011, however, the State Department of Health mandated that all vermiculite be presumed to contain asbestos and therefore abated if disturbed.
Last month, according to Marlow, some of the building’s vermiculite did become unexpectedly disturbed while construction crews were working on a wall near the High School library.
Instead of abating just the affected area, she said, the district has opted to remove all vermiculite from the building and install new insulation before moving forward with the final phase of improvements.
“We’d rather have the setback and do it right the first time,” Marlow said. “The health and safety of our students and entire faculty and staff are the priority.”
The State Education Department’s Office of Facilities Planning has given the district a $400,000 increase in building aid to cover the cost of the remediation process.
There will be no additional cost to taxpayers, Marlow said.
‘A LITTLE GLITCH’
Construction at the Middle/High School is part of the district’s nearly $30 million capital-improvement project that got under way in 2010.
The work has included extensive upgrades to both the Middle/High and Elementary School buildings, as well as technology and energy-efficiency improvements, classroom additions and construction of a multi-purpose gymnasium.
Marlow said she anticipates the entire project will be complete by January or February of 2013.
“A little glitch in the project is nothing compared to how beautiful this campus is and will be by the end of it.” she said.
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