Ventilation systems installed at Princeton schools

$750,000 targeted to remedy worries about health and safety.

By: Jeff Milgram
   While students and staff of the Princeton Regional School District enjoyed winter break, there was no vacation for the construction crews.
   Much of what was done involved electrical work and fabrication of a special ventilation system for the elementary schools, said Gary Weisman, the district’s facilities director.
   The heating and air conditioning subcontractor has installed a special ventilation system at Riverside and Community Park schools. The system of air intake ventilators is designed to keep fumes from roofing installation from coming into the buildings.
   Work on the system will be completed this week at Littlebrook School, Mr. Weisman said. The system, which will cost $130,000, will then be installed at Johnson Park School.
   Because each building is different, the contractor must piece the system together from scratch.
   "There’s a lot of fabricating involved," Mr. Weisman said. "Measurements have to be taken."
   Parents said students and staff at Littlebrook and Johnson Park schools were sickened by fumes from a roofing adhesive containing toluene. Parents also raised issues about air quality.
   In December, the district halted virtually all work at the elementary schools and asked its subcontractor to design and install the additional air intake system to keep fumes from getting into the buildings.
   In all, work to remedy worries about health and safety issues will add $750,000 to the $81.3 million renovation and expansion project and will delay the work at the elementary schools by as much as nine months.
   Work at Princeton High School began only a few months ago and contractors are "going full bore" completing site work, Mr. Weisman said. Work at a temporary PHS parking lot across Walnut Lane at the John Witherspoon Middle School is almost complete.
   Crews at the middle school are continuing to work on the pool and gymnasium addition. "They haven’t missed a beat," Mr. Weisman said.
   At Johnson Park School, workers will soon be breaking through the walls to link the gym to the new addition, he said.
   At Community Park School, workers have installed a grease trap in the kitchen but it will not be tied in until the spring, Mr. Weisman said.
   But all the work will not place the construction back on schedule.
   "What we lost, we lost. All it does is put people back to work," Mr. Weisman said. "It’s not going to buy us back some time. What work can be done, they’re doing."