Air Quality Tests Confirm Decision to Re-open

Last week we reopened school after our cafeteria fire after the advice of investigators and specialists recommending that there was no further risk after our cleaning regime was complete.  As I noted in a previous note, this was to be followed with air quality tests to confirm these recommendations and reassure our community of the safety of the building and the remedial steps we have taken up until this time.  We received the air quality report in the middle of last week and then reviewed the report through verbal translation, point by point.  We can confirm that the results are in alignment with the original recommendations and found no risk to students, as all of the measurements in key areas of exposure were measured and found to be fully in compliance with current requirements in all respects.  The full report is provided to our community in PDF and downloadable here:

ASW Air Quality Report (in Polish)

We want to thank the community for all of the positive responses with regards to our communication and actions during this difficult juncture and we will continue to provide updates as any new information is known.  At this time, the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation and all companies related to the fire (e.g. equipment providers, product providers, etc.) have been notified. We expect to know something more about this after the break.

It should be noted that insurance work is not dependent on this investigation and that we are covered for work on the cafeteria and library moving forward.  We are currently at the stage of receiving bids from contractors on the various elements of work that must be completed.  In all of the proposals received so far, the expectation is still affirming that everything will return to normal after the vacation.  While there might be a limited amount of final organizational work to continue after the break, we expect to have much of this resolved before our January return.

Many thanks again to all who have shown so much flexibility during this difficult issue.  We appreciate everyone adapting to our temporary cafeteria most of all and to CPS for doing their best to provide us with modified service during this final period before the break.  Thanks as well to parents and staff who are helping in the cafeteria each day, assisting students of all ages, in the morning, during lunch, and throughout the day.

Holiday Cheer!

Our artisans joined us today with a wide array of holiday items displayed throughout our hallway.  It was a pleasure to see the many items spread before us, ushering in the trappings of the season.  But, the real highlight today was the wonderful sounds that warmed our hallway as staff caroling caused us pause as we were on our way to class this morning.  A perfect way to get us into the spirit of the final week before we head to a well deserved vacation!!

Remember that we also have the Jingle Bell Fun Run this afternoon (Friday, 3:45p) after school!  Santa will be there!  Put on your running shoes and join us! See you in the new gym!


Fire follow-up and what lies ahead…

In reflecting on the last few days, my mind has turned to how we all faced adversity in what can only be described as complicated times.  For me, walking into a clean, but “injured” building this week inspired a moment of consideration — How can we confront these challenges in a way that helps make sense of these events, while also learning from them?  How can we strive to improve and get ever better in the midst of painful experience?

Our fire was small by all estimation.  Approximately 8 square meters of space was damaged by flames and the associated melted plastic, quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, who responded in under 10 minutes.  But, as previously reported, the smoke damage was significant, affecting areas associated with the school core including both cafeteria and library.  The loss of our library and cafeteria is daunting in the final days before a vacation.  While we are quite sure we will have them back up and running in January when we return, we will miss these spaces in the final days of 2016.  The cafeteria has settled into our small gym and worked well in its trial run on Monday.  We are confident that we can manage in this space for the next 9 days.  The library will be setting up makeshift operation in the Elementary School Tower.  With over 3000 books in circulation at the time of the fire, we expect that some redistribution of these books may keep us reading and sharing until the vacation.  Maybe Christmas lists could shift a bit and accommodate a special book for a young reader during the coming holiday!

In many ways, while the hardship of renovation begins, we are all educators in our hearts looking for the lessons of how we respond in situations of this nature.  We can look on the bright side of the equation, knowing that the damage could have been much worse, or the timing of the day could have caused more challenges.  We can celebrate that the systems worked to keep everyone safe in the moment, that responders arrived in record time, and that key staff members were here doing their best to protect our interests.  We can also feel a bit better that insurance companies have arrived and are providing favorable treatment to the school, helping us to navigate our interests in the face of contractors and specialists.

The more important lessons will come in the after action review, the deeper reflection on the systems and strategies that will keep this from happening in the future.  This may be the most important lesson, gleaned from prudent and comprehensive investigation, that we may need to be more rigorous in our inspection and adjustment actions, ensuring that similar incident is avoided in the future.

But, despite all of the events associated with the fire and the work that lies ahead to bring the building back to normal by the time we return in January, we  enter the final days of 2016 with the spirit of the holidays entering our hearts and minds.  For those of us cut from the American template, the recent celebration of Thanksgiving brought the beginning of transition to the season of good cheer, a time filled with celebration and joy found through family and friends gathered in fellowship.  In the coming days, we will celebrate with our children in performance and song – having finished the high school play on the weekend, we now enter into the holiday presentations of Choir and Instrumental offerings.  These are special times for students who have worked hard to prepare their offerings through diligence and commitment.  The performance part of these artistic pursuits are so important and fleeting that we need to give special attention to them and join the audience that will applaud their accomplishment.  Join me on Tuesday and Thursday this week at 6:00 p.m. as we enjoy our Choir and Band performances in our Theater.  Students have worked hard and they deserve a packed house for their offering of time and talent.

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