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Strong odor, hypothermia lesson cause concern

The halls of Twin Bluff Middle School are returning to normal as the district addressed strong citrus odors throughout the building after scheduled asbestos removal work over the holiday break. (Photo by Samantha Bengs)

At Tuesday evening's Red Wing School Board meeting, Superintendent Karsten Anderson addressed two recent issues at Twin Bluff Middle School that raised some concern from parents.

The first involved a hypothermia lesson taught by a safety expert Dec. 16 in conjunction with the swimming unit in physical education classes.

"Part of the lesson included students getting out of the swimming pool and going outside in cold temperatures and snow-covered ground," Anderson said.

Several parental complaints were received and addressed by Anderson and TBMS principal Chris Palmatier. On the day the hypothermia lesson took place, students were kept indoors for recess because of cold temperatures.

"We are sorry that it unfolded the way it did, and that the event caused legitimate concerns from parents," Anderson said. "Although we are confident that students were safe throughout the lesson, we will undoubtedly do some things differently if the lesson is repeated this year or in subsequent years."

In the future, Anderson said the district will provide a notice to parents indicating the nature of the lesson, stress that students are not required to participate, and conduct the lesson only if students are allowed to participate in recess on that day.

Asbestos removal leaves strong odor

The second incident involved a strong citrus odor throughout the building as staff and students returned Tuesday, Jan. 3.

As scheduled, an abatement contractor team removed asbestos over the holiday break.

"A nonhazardous citrus cleaner was used as the asbestos removal was completed on schedule," Anderson said. "The citrus odor was a lot stronger than we anticipated."

Anderson stressed that although the citrus cleaner is a green chemical, and not hazardous, Palmatier and TBMS staff took several precautions monitoring students and moving classes from the upper C wing where the scent was the strongest. During the school day, the custodial team rewashed the floors with a neutralizing compound, and the abatement contractor was also brought back for rewashing affected areas.

"I want to emphasize that students and staff are safe and we are taking additional steps to neutralize the odor," Anderson said.

While stating the strong odor was an unfortunate event, Anderson praised the quick actions of Director of Buildings and Grounds Kevin Johnson and Palmatier to remedy the significant issue in positive way.

"Kevin and his team jumped in to help right away, and Chris had a backup plan ready and moved classrooms immediately," Anderson said. "I am impressed with the school district's response, punctuated with Chris's email to parents that was also translated to Spanish."

In the days following the rewashing, Anderson said good progress has been made applying sealer to the rooms.

"Our plan is to finish sealing all of the rooms that had the citrus-smelling remover this week and then have everyone move back on Monday," Anderson said.