New Bedford City Councilor Joe Lopes submitted a copy of an email and pictures to the City Council from Christine Pereira-Vasquez, a teacher at Congdon School regarding the condition, health and environmental dangers at the Congdon School:
Dear City Council:
It was with great dismay that I read about your decision to “nix” plans to build a new school
for the J.B. Congdon and the DeValles Elementary Schools. As a life-long resident and “NorthEnder” of New Bedford, as well as NBPS teacher at the Congdon School for close to thirty years,
I can truly say you have made a “mistake” on this one. I understand your concern for the northend schools, but the condition, health, and environmental dangers at our two schools far
supersedes anything that the north-end schools are experiencing.
Although I cannot speak for the condition of DeValles- although I hear that it may, in fact, be
worse than Congdon, I can give you first hand information of what students and staff face every
day here at Congdon. I, for example, am unable to keep any posters up on certain walls of my
room because of the water that drips down when it rains. I have used buckets in my shared
closet to catch the water as it drops from ceiling to floor. I am not alone in this. I need to cover
my shelves, books, and other materials near these walls as they not only get wet from time to
time, but the paint curls and peels because of the moisture. This leads to the paint “bubbling”
on the walls and then crumbling over everything, leaving a big mess to clean. We are constantly
breathing this “dust” in the air as well as the musty smells from the dirt-floor basement that
enters through our vents.
I have had very “hairy”, black mold grow in a shared closet. The principal at the time, was
“afraid they would close the school down” so did nothing about it for two years. When it got so
bad and he could no longer ignore it, a custodian came in to scrape and clean it with bleach,
never following the proper protocol in securing the area and cleaning black mold, putting all
children and staff at risk for the spreading of spores. I had a child that year in remission from
leukemia. I was truly petrified for her wellbeing. We had a teacher test positive for mold who
became ill from it, and there are many of us that suffer chronic sinus, throat, and cough related
conditions. Whether this was related to the incident or not, I can’t say. But mold and mildew in
the air exist. What is this doing to the children whose immune systems and bodies are
developing? The school is a giant health hazard.
We also have an infestation of rodents. It is rampant in our school. We are not able to leave
food-based materials (pasta, fish crackers for graphing, etc.) unless in plastic or glass
containers- in our shelves or closets as they are eaten through by the mice and/or rats. Their
droppings are everywhere- on floors, in cabinets, behind shelves. Again, we are all breathing
this in on a daily basis. As if this is not enough, we have had issues with bats on the third floor. I believe DeValles has its problems with birds and their droppings.
We also have run out of space at Congdon. We are utilizing old storage rooms for small
group space- no windows or ventilation, some with cement walls. The nurse shares space with
the school secretary in the main office and our specialists use the auditorium stage for their
space. We need a new school!
– Christine Pereira-Vasquez, a teacher at Congdon School
April 13, 2019