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Batalla teachers worry about school’s environmental condition

August 29, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — The air conditioning system on the 11-year-old Cesar Batalla School reportedly busted over the summer, sending a coating of soot and condensation throughout the 146,000 square foot building that teachers worry in unsafe.

An external industrial visited the school on Tuesday to take samples, according to Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson.

Results are expected back sometime Wednesday even as teachers work to prepare their classrooms for the first day of school on Thursday and parents filter in and out to register their children for classes.

Bridgeport Education Association leaders are also monitoring the situation.

District and city facilities officials on Wednesday would not immediately comment on the situation or what caused it, referring all questions to the superintendent’s office.

“They are telling us it’s just dirt,” Betty Martinez, a third grade teacher at Batalla, said.

To her it looks like mold and she said she worries the spray bottles and rags being used to combat the mess is not enough.

“These little guys are set to come into school Thursday with all kinds of respiratory issues,” Martinez said.

The first thing students at the school of more than 1,100 prekindergarten through eighth grade students will do on Thursday is eat breakfast in their classrooms.

Ana Batista, another Batalla teacher and a union vice president said the mess was everywhere. She walked around Tuesday, first with school and city facilities officials and then the hygienist who tested the air quality and swab samples in classrooms and outside the school.

Even as teachers continue to decorate bulletin boards and wipe off work spaces on Wednesday, they said continue to find soot in vent crevices, under chrome book trays and in rugs where children normally sit.

Gary Peluchette, president of the teacher’s union, said there is contract language calling for clean, well ventilated work spaces.

He added that he is giving the district a chance to remedy the situation. Peluchette said when he emailed Johnson on Monday evening, district officials were there the next morning to investigate. Johnson said she too visited the school on Wednesday.

Teachers who have been at the school for years say the air conditioner has never worked efficiently and a particularly hot and humid patch over the summer led to the malfunction just as summer school was ending. Fans, they say, were brought in to dry things off.

Batalla was opened in 2007 and has more than 60 classrooms spread across two floors.

Martinez said she would like the building to be thoroughly cleaned before it is opened.

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