On Sept. 11, temperatures in the Williamstown area reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit, causing Mount Greylock Regional High School to shut down due to humidity concerns in the building.
In a letter sent to the school community, the administrative staff described the situation: “After a summer of heavy rains, extremely high levels of humidity have compounded the moisture problems in our aging building. Slippery floors made movement through the hallways and in classes precarious.” The school building was constructed in 1961, and the design of the building is slightly outdated. When the school was built, energy efficiency was not as high of a priority as it currently is due to the low price of oil. Accordingly, the ventilation, heating and insulation systems in the building use extensive amounts of energy and do not properly circulate air.
The slippery surfaces in the building resulted from faulty ventilation. On a hot, humid day, the ventilation system cannot properly move moisture from the building, so humidity increases within the structure and condensation forms on the walls and floors. On the day Mount Greylock was forced to close, according to Principal Mary MacDonald, the floors looked “like vegetable oil” had been poured on them because of the condensed water mixing with “the detritus of school life” coming from students’ sneakers and school gear.
The custodial staff tried to control the moisture with mops and indoor Zamboni machines, but they could not stay ahead of the water. Students were dismissed that afternoon, and no students or faculty were injured. The issue was so extensive that classes were canceled for the next day as well. As the temperature cooled and the custodial staff continued to monitor the situation, they were eventually able to control the situation and clean the floors.
While this is the first time Mount Greylock has canceled school due to a building malfunction, the moisture issue seen in September is common over the summer during extremely humid weeks. This summer, the school closed during the week of July 4 because of slippery floors. “The issue was worse [on Sept. 11] because so many people were in the building,” MacDonald said, as students tracking in and releasing moisture in the building compounded the building’s issue.
The school administration submitted a statement of intent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in 2006 to hopefully renovate the school, and the administration has resubmitted statements every year since 2006. A funding grant from the Building Authority would allow the school to undertake major renovations. There are many schools, like Mount Greylock, waiting for grants from the Building Authority, so Mount Greylock’s status is uncertain. The school hopes the recently publicity due to the moisture issue will help the proposal get funding, but the Mount Greylock administration is still unsure of where exactly they stand “in the line of schools waiting for renovation,” MacDonald said.
The school is determined to provide an optimal education, even as they work around a poor physical environment. Solving the physical problem will allow the school to focus more on education and curriculum. Maintenance of the building “take[s] a lot of resources and a lot of time,” MacDonald said, and to properly manage the building, the staff needs to stay “one step ahead of the weather” to prevent issues of this sort from occurring again. “We are using precious resources to ensure the safety and cleanliness of our building; resources that could support the education of our students,” Rose Ellis, superintendent of Mount Greylock Regional School District, said.