Bad air schools get visit Money for immediate problems hoped for soon By Chris Woodall A surprise visit by two consultants, Tuesday, to inspect Howe Sound's four "bad air" elementary schools may mean some problems will be fixed soon. A building expert and a health and environmental technician hired by the education ministry spent June 2 with Howe Sound school district operations manager Rick Hume. "In our experience we've never seen the ministry act so quickly," Hume says. "They went to all four schools (three Squamish-area schools and Signal Hill Elementary in Pemberton) and will come back for a more detailed look." The consultants came to confirm everything the school board and others have been saying about the unhealthy schools and to justify emergency spending to get some problems solved this summer. The immediate problems are to replace mouldy carpet in the affected schools and to deal with damp crawl spaces. Although Hume doesn't expect a call right away, he needs to hear back soon. "We're getting very close to the July-August months when children are out of school, so I don't want to hear (about funding) in mid-July," Hume says about getting work done before the start of the next school year. In any case, the work has to be done in phases, Hume says. The immediate work to solve flooring and the crawl spaces is estimated to cost $737,800 at the four schools: Mamquam Elementary ($303,800), Signal Hill ($164,000), Squamish ($162,000), and Stawamus ($108,000). "This will get us up and operating in a nicer environment," Hume says. The crawl spaces at the four schools don't have concrete "skin coats" so that water from rain or snow melt rises up from the ground. Laying a concrete floor there and installing sump pumps to draw off the rising water table should keep the two- to three-foot-high spaces dry and free of fungus and spores, Hume says. Work that may take up to an additional two years to complete will be to install new boilers and the appropriate electrical systems to power heating and air exchange systems. "We don't have enough power in these schools to run new boilers," Hume says. "The boilers they have are 35-40 years old." Those projects run into the $500,000-plus range at each school for a four-school total of $2.66 million so far. But that wouldn't cover everything. Building code and seismic issues for district schools' health and safety could add another $4 million to the tab, spread over several years of work, Hume says, "Provided we get the funding every year."