The District 113 Board of Education voted on Monday to spend about $125,000 to clean and replace parts of Deerfield High School's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
The decision comes after a decade of complaints about the school's air quality, according to board president Harvey Cohen.
"There are no asbestos, no lead, there's never been a test showing there is an unsafe condition in the school, but there is clustered and continued complaints," Cohen told Patch on Wednesday. "I really trust this will put an end to it."
Environmental and Occupational Consulting firm Carnow Conibear outlined the procedure at Monday's board meeting. The process includes the total removal of all existing ceiling tiles in the counseling area of the school, followed by a complete clean of the area above them. Any mold will be washed down and the rugs will be steamed and vacuumed clean. Each step will take place in a negative air pressure environment so no dust can escape the area.
"It should be as clean as an operating room when they get done," Cohen said.
The cost breakdown is as follows: $24,150 for the contract with Conibear, $70,985 for the extensive environmental cleaning, $15,600 for the replacement of the ducts and $15,200 for the assessment and balancing of the HVAC afterwards.
Monday's meeting opened with a comment about the school's air quality from Cheryl Smith, who works in counseling at DHS. She said that she and other faculty members in the counseling department have suffered respiratory ailments as a result of the school's poor air circulation.
"We have had air quality concerns at DHS for a long time," she told the board. "My hope is that you will put the time, energy and resources into making DHS a school that is safe for everybody."
One concern board members had on Monday was how certain they could be that the air quality problems would not return after this process was complete.
"Is this the complete, no-shortcut solution to resolving this problem once and for all?" Board member David Small asked.
Though Conibear representatives could not assure the board that it would not receive any complaints after their work was done, they did point out that there were disconcerting elements of the school's air circulation.
"Can we definitively say that debris in this room that passes through the filters is effectively screened out before it gets circulated back? No we can't," said Carnow Conibear technical manager Nick Preys. "It rings off a lot of alarm bells."
Funding for the project will come from district funds, according to Cohen. No money will come from borrowing or deficit spending. Work is expected to be complete before the new school year begins.
"We're doing everything that's been asked, recommended and suggested," Cohen said. "I hope that when school opens we will not hear anymore complaints."