South Shore Building Closed for Rest of Year

Yes, that's what $65+M will buy you - a sick school. According to the Times this morning, South Shore building will be closed as they try to figure out what is making students and staff sick.

Students and teachers will finish out the year in one or more alternative locations, which have yet to be determined. They will be out of school for at least a week while the district figures out where to put them.

The decision to close the school, made Friday evening, followed an effort earlier in the day by some parents and teachers to move classes outside Monday as a one-day protest.

The school's parent-teacher association sent home a flier Friday telling parents to send their children to school in warm clothes on Monday, and asking for people to lend tarps and other equipment.

What a disaster for this school - losing a week and possibly moving to one or more locations. (My thought might be to move them to John Marshall. Boren is being used already down in SW Seattle. Rainier View is too small and being remodeled anyway. Maybe they could co-house with Rainier Beach HS even though it would be a huge challenge but it is right there in that neighborhood. They did it at Summit.)

In my experience the district cannot get the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) right in these new schools. Roosevelt had problems from the get go (but not health problems but hot and cold spots throughout the building which took so long to fix the warranty ran out).

As a new school, South Shore was built according to Washington Sustainable Schools protocol. Its carpet and other materials are supposed to give off low levels of fumes, a problem known as outgassing.

The district has conducted dozens of tests since January, when a teacher and some students in his classes first complained of odor, itchy eyes, headaches and nausea. Officials first thought the issue was limited to one room, but additional tests picked up higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in other rooms, too. Officials are focusing on the flooring, because that's where the highest concentrations of VOCs show up, and where the odor is strongest.

Many at the comments section after the Times article think it is hysteria. I doubt it. This has been on-going off and on for months. Charlie did a great job there in pointing out what was left out of this article like the rush to finish this project by having construction done using overtime work, like South Shore is the only school that receives a large amount of money from a private foundation as part of its budget, that it's where Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's child attends, etc. It is background information about the school but you never see it in any story about South Shore.

Feeling curious? Here are some of the people listed on the South Shore project and their area of responsibility:

Don Gillmore, Program Manager (SPS) - 252-0647,
Brett Newsham, Project Manager, Heery Int'l, 587-0473,
Shawn Wolfe, Manager (Hazardous Material Consultant), Bureau Veritas, 763-7364,
Anne Roote, Senior Planner, (Environmental Consultant), Adolfson Associates, 789-9558,

Now I know when I call these people on Monday, I'm sure they will all be willing to give me their professional opinion. Not going to happen but it never hurts to ask.


Okay, to be fair, it more likely to be a flooring issue than HVAC but this was in the article and lead me to wonder about the HVAC:

"To address the air-quality concerns, the district had been running the system around the clock for months, without recycling any of the air."

What that means, I don't know but it ain't good. What it cost, I also don't know.
LouiseM said…
"Charlie did a great job there in pointing out what was left out of this article like the rush to finish this project by having construction done using overtime work, like South Shore is the only school that receives a large amount of money from a private foundation as part of its budget, that it's where Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's child attends, etc. It is background information about the school but you never see it in any story about South Shore. "

Melissa, the only relevant piece of this background Charlie provided is the fact they used overtime labor. Being funded by an outside entity and having Goodloe-Johnson's daughter attend has nothing to do with the condition of the building. Unless you're intimating that they rushed the building because of those other two factors. If so, then just say it.

Please don't start jumping the shark like others on this blog. Keep your reputation clean--we count on you for valid information and an objective opinion.
seattle citizen said…
The John Marshall building already has tenants: "Lifetime Learning" or some such thing (courses directed at retired people - a non-profit started on QA, classes in history, art, crocheting...) and Seattle Girl Choir.
There might be room for all...
seattle citizen said…
As one who is probably one of FightingForKids sharkjumpers, I'd ask FFK what exactly it means to "keep one's repuation clean." This is a blog, for heaven's sake - people are free to voice thier ideas and opinions without snarky holier-than-thou comments. Of course you're free to feel above it all, and voice that here, but YOUR reputation is sullied by such close-mindedness and oh-so-pure attitude.
Sahila said…
SC - you beat me to it... thanks...
Dorothy Neville said…
The fact that it was overtime labor is interesting and part of the story of the alleged problem. The fact that the super's kid and some director's grandkids attend is interesting and part of the story of the decision to close.

Remember, this started months ago and until very recently, the district was assuring parents and staff not to be alarmed. Vacating the building immediately is a surprising and forceful step.

I have heard that a teacher has been out sick for a while and has been hospitalized. I have heard that there are some test results that measure *something* in PPM. Can you do a general test of "bad stuff" and get a PPM score? Or doesn't that imply that they have an actual chemical name? Would such a test be considered an Open Record?
KG said…
Likely MGJ pushed for the building to open on time so the concrete did not cure properly before construction on top of the concrete was started and carpet was laid. Maybe investigation could take place to see what influence propelled this problem and whom was responsible? Was the speediness of the buildings construction made to look like someone was doing a good job? I would guess poor dealings here.
Dorothy Neville said…
Ah, I just reread the article and saw the mention of organic VOCs, which may answer my question.

I read in the comments to the article that the windows don't open. How is that part of an environmentally friendly and "green" building? Always relying on mechanical ventilation requires constant use of fossil fuels. Is this part of the conundrum of seal a building tightly to avoid losing heat (or cool air) which results in bad indoor air quality?
seattle said…
The Nathan Hale construction has been going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire year.

The kids at Hale have been at a school with an artificial (plastic) leaking roof for the entire year. They have entered classrooms and had to wipe thick layers of construction dust off of their desks. Teachers give lessons in classrooms with deafening construction noice all around them. During demolition, and during the school day, plumes of construction dust consumed the entire school and block.

Who oversees the environmental factors and hazards in this district?
owlhouse said…
I am so glad this action has been taken. At dinner w/ a friend last night I heard more depth of the troubles at SS. For months, neither the school nor district communicated with SS families, despite ongoing concerns and requests for info. This week, information was shared, but apparently in english only. Once the notice went school wide, they heard from way more families who had taken kids to the dr. for breathing, skin, eye, headache and related problems. At least a handful thought it was stress related as symptoms would worsen during the school week, improve on the weekend.

What a blow to the school. I'm so sorry they have to go through the disruption, but think it's absolutely the right thing to do.

Toni, I hear you on NH. I've heard and read so many things about the mold and ongoing construction in the building. I can't believe it would be policy to allow for that type of disruption and environmental hazard during class time. Insane.
Anonymous said…
KG-likely the contract, like MANY in construction, called for bonuses for early completion and penalties for late completion. This is common in construction-just ask anyone in the industry. Unfortunately, as we're seeing with the building downtown that they're about to tear down after only 9 years, such clauses can lead to shortcuts that lead to problems.

Also, MGJ arrived AFTER the district had signed the contrat, I believe. We were at SS from 2005-2007 and from the time we started, we knew the kids would be moving to a temporary site during construction. So it was ALL ARRANGED BEFORE she was even here.

You can lay a lot at her door, but I don't think this is one of those things. Now, I'd be the first to complain if she then took a completed contract and changed it, but I imagine this blog would have been the first place to call for her head if that had happened, and I don't remember seeing any such thing.

That said, I'm glad they closed it. My daughter has asthma and I'm sure we would have been one of those affected families.
Charlie Mas said…
As Dorothy presumed, the significance of the hurried construction schedule spoke to possible sources for the irritant. The significance of the Superintendent's child and a Director's grandchildren at the school, as well as the significance of the heavy donor support spoke to the drastic decision to close the building.

Van Asselt may be on the list as a potential temporary site. It is large, close, appropriate for use as a K-5, and empty. Has the District leased Columbia, the building the school used last year?

There will be some trouble finding a building with the middle school lab space they need. The AAA building might be an option if the labs there are still intact.

Is there space available at the chronically underenrolled Aki Kurose?
Stu said…
There will be some trouble finding a building with the middle school lab space they need. The AAA building might be an option if the labs there are still intact.

Not having lab space hasn't stopped them before, has it? And that's in a "permanent" building.

Charlie Mas said…
Not having lab space didn't stop them with NOVA or the SBOC, but I think it would stop them with South Shore.

The constituents from NOVA and the SBOC are easy for them to ignore or neglect. They cannot as easily disregard the constituents of South Shore.

I will say again what I have said before. The New School should have moved into the AAA building. The building was K-8 ready and large enough to house every New School student AND every AAA scholar. Not one child from AAA would have had to leave the building. Then the District could have close Aki Kurose and opened a new middle school in the South Shore building. There is room for 1,000 6-8 students in the building as opposed to the 750 K-8 students that can use it. It would also move the middle school closer to the heart of the service area and put it closer to the high school (for coordination and continuity).

Van Asselt would have stayed at Van Asselt instead of moving to the AAA building, which not only squandered a K-8 building by using it as a K-5, and not only is WAY too much building for Van Asselt, but also put two neighborhood elementary schools (Van Asselt and Wing Luke) just three blocks from each other. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
hschinske said…
I thought my husband was being incredibly picky to ask a lot of questions about off-gassing and such when Whittier was new. I guess he was perfectly right.

Helen Schinske
Alas, I cannot be entirely objective on this one. I mean I have nothing personal against New School Foundation or South Shore but the favoritism given to South Shore is apparent and frankly, I find it unfair to all the other schools.

What I meant by the lack of background information is that none of it ever seems to surface in ANY story about South Shore which seems odd given its unique position in the district. That South Shore got shut down for the year and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has her child in there seems relevant to me.

Charlie and I are in agreement about what should have happened to South Shore, namely, moving into AAA. But that's water under the bridge now.

I surely hope Hale doesn't open with problems as well. This may well spur them to be extra careful.
ParentofThree said…
Isn't Hamiliton also opening in a new building this fall. Should parents have concerns?
SP said…
Toni said-
"The kids at Hale...have entered classrooms and had to wipe thick layers of construction dust off of their desks. Teachers give lessons in classrooms with deafening construction noice all around them. During demolition, and during the school day, plumes of construction dust consumed the entire school and block."

Toni & Hale families- That is horrible to hear and I can't believe an uproar from familes hasn't erupted! Those kids should not be exposed to such potential hazardous dust and fumes, for any amount of time, much less all year.

No one knows the long term effects of such exposure until years later, when it's too late. Have you read about all of the serious health issues rescue & medical workers in NYC at Ground 0 have been experiencing?

That school school should be evacuated immediately until the construction is finished and the school fully cleaned of hazardous wastes. Even if the district doesn't do it, you have a responsibility to your kid's health to seriously consider these risks they are being exposed to.
The district doesn't really like to do construction while students are around. This business at Hale is pretty new but Lincoln, the high school interim in the north end, was being used by Hamilton. Hale certainly has had its issues with mold and asbestos in the past (plus being built on a bog). We can hope that the new construction will be an upgrade.
gavroche said…
FightingForKids, if Sidwell School in DC were to suddenly close due to mysterious noxious fumes, do you really think the Washington Post wouldn't mention that President Obama's daughters attend that school?

No one said the fact that the Superintendent's daughter attends South Shore has anything to do with the state of the building. But it may have influenced the (appropriately) decisive action of the District to close the school.

Along with the fact that a School Board Director (Patu) has grandchildren attending the school.

(Whether the District would allow all that noise and dust to go on at Nathan Hale if the Superintendent had a child at Hale, one can only speculate.)

The Superintendent's personal connection to the school is also a relevant matter of public interest. That's Journalism 101.

Finally, I don't know which "we" you are speaking for when you announce your expectations and demands of Melissa:

Keep your reputation clean--we count on you for valid information and an objective opinion.

But speaking for myself, I feel Melissa is doing a great job on this blog and strives to be fair and informative.
grousefinder said…
Melissa: It is highly unlikely that those HVAC systems are designed for 100% Outside Air Operation (OSA). Generally, the dampers are fixed at 15% OSA, unless the controls have independent OSA and and Return Air (RA) dampers. Then, they modulate as a percentage of exhaust air requirements. To operate at 100% OSA in the winter would require preheating coils ahead of the mixed air plenums. Again, not a standard design on a school. There are OSA intakes on the side of the building adjacent the Rainier Beach Pool. They are very small and look like they are designed for maximum 50% OSA. So, there is no way that SS could be in a 100% OSA (non-recycling) mode. For one thing, the exhaust fans would need to be massive for the necessary six air changes per hour. BTW...the term "non-recycling" is not an HVAC term, so whoever wrote that was not an expert.

I have not seen the blueprints or air balance reports, but after twenty years in the HVAC business I would say that the systems were doing at most a 50% OSA/Exhaust Cycle, but only when outside temperatures rose above 46 deg. (a typical design day for school HVAC). If they tried to use 100% OSA below 46 deg. the air handlers would not be able to maintain building temperature.
Grousefinder, you should put in the application for the outside consultant on this job. I think they need you.
Gouda said…
But that's water under the bridge now.

Hasn't stopped you for making snide comments every time you have a chance though.

You definitely win funniest blog comment of the day.

And you get bonus points for mentioning the Foundation when the real issue is about the students and teachers who are getting sick.

(end sarcasm)

(at least for today)
First, I was agreeing with something Charlie said.

Second, why, if this public/private partnership is so great, doesn't the district or New School Foundation publicize or promote it more? Really, I'd like to know because it seems odd to have this stealth school in our district if it's supposed to be the model for what this district is trying to strive for. (The Foundation itself says that it created the school to show the Legislature how full funding can make a difference.)

The New School Foundation has a lot to do with this building's existence. I can't definitively prove that but if you follow the memos, the minutes from various meetings leading up to the BEX III levy, you can easily connect the dots. And the rush to get it done in 16 months (a record in our district)? Why would that be?

I never quite hear an answer to my questions/concerns, just that I'm being snarky, snide or mean. Tell what I have wrong before you call me any of those things. What am I missing/not understanding about the existence and backing of South Shore?
Syd said…
I think the district often has children in construction zones. One of our motivations to move our child from Beacon Hill in the third grade (we loved that school!) was that they would be doing a major renovation with the children in the building. It is not OK to make children or adults breath construction materials. Workers have breathing masks, those are not a good solution (nor were they offered) for children in a learning environment. I don't think Graham Hill moved during construction, does anyone know for sure?
wseadawg said…
Fighting for Kids: I don't know who's kids you're fighting for, but it sure as heck ain't mine.

Kind of a conceited, self-annointed, super-hero complex in choosing such a morally superior alias like "FightingForKids" by the way. Whyn not go all out with "BestPersonEver" or something like that.

Sorry to be so snarky, but you started it. I find such an alias to be curiously self-promoting and smacking of a superiority complex. As if nobody else is "fighting for kids" on this blog, or fighting as hard, or as well as you. But hey, Super-Heroes are cool, with their capes & all.
SolvayGirl said…
Syd. We were at GH during their construction. Much of the work was done over the summer, and as it was the addition of a new wing, the kids' classrooms were not technically under construction. But it did cause problems. One teacher was injured due to construction debris (can't remember all the particulars).

I do remember the day they opened the new wing; the difference between the two halves of the building was like Dorothy opening the door of the house to Oz.
So I checked in with the personnel listed:

Brett Newsham at Heery - left a voice mail

The person who was the hazardous material consultant has left that firm. The firm, Bureau Veritas, said they would not comment as it would "not be advantageous". The woman I spoke to said she couldn't comment without reviewing the files. I asked if she would be doing that and she said no, they get paid to do that. So clearly, no answers from those people. (Note to Board; don't hire this firm; not the most transparent. She didn't even try to be helpful.)

The environmental consultant listed, they only did the SEPA checklist and had nothing to do with materials used, installation, etc.

Look, I don't expect these people not to cover themselves but when the district puts their name, cell numbers/business numbers (and I did not publish the cell numbers) and their role in a building, well, you might expect the district thinks you might want to call them if you have a question on a project. Otherwise, it's decorative transparency.
Charlie Mas said…
The temporary locations for South Shore have been announced.

K-5 will be at Columbia. It won't be leased to the Torah Day School until after the school year.

6-7 will be on the campus of Rainier Beach High School but in a separate building.

Pre-K does not yet have a location. There is some legal reason that Pre-K can't be at Columbia, even though it was there last year.
Wow, I didn't even consider they would split the school. That's an even bigger blow. Sad for that community.
seattle citizen said…
I wonder what we can do to help.

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