Amherst schools’ floors drying out, officials say classes likely back in session Friday
AMHERST — After slick floors caused by high humidity forced the closing of schools here Thursday, maintenance crews worked steadily to dry the buildings out.
“We weren’t the only one with this problem, but we were proactive” in canceling school, Ron Bohonowicz, director of facilities and transportation for the Amherst Regional School District, said by telephone Thursday afternoon.
Up to 20 minor falls were reported in most of the school district’s six buildings over the course of the school day Wednesday, he said.
Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown also closed for two days this week due the effect of condensation on its aging buildings’ floors, according to the Berkshire Eagle. And in Northampton, where conditions did not reach a danger point, raised floor fans were used in school buildings to dry the floors, said David Pomerantz, the city’s director of facilities. “Blowing air down the hallways helps,” he said.
Bohonowicz said the problem was not caused by fresh coats of wax melting, as initially reported, but by the buildup of condensation caused when high, humid outside temperatures hit the cool ground-level floors. He said the slick conditions that resulted have occurred in the past during summer months, when school is not in session, but not by the time classes resume in September.
This week’s heat and humidity, however, took their toll. He noted that humidity levels were 72 percent Wednesday when students and staff reported chairs sliding across floors and people falling.
“The safety of our students and staff is the ultimate guide in any decision to close school,” Superintendent Maria Geryk wrote in an email.
Just as the circumstances reported at Mount Greylock, it is the older, non-air-conditioned buildings in Amherst that experienced the problems. And, Bohonowicz said, it was the ground floors, not the upper floors, that were affected, a condition noted by Pomerantz in Northampton as well.
At midday Thursday the schools’ floors were looking good, Bohonowicz said, and he expected school to be in session Friday. Still, he said, he could not guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Closing off certain hallways and using rugs in damp areas can help if need be, he said.
“We’re just praying that the weather breaks.”