NORWAY – Maine School Administrative District 17 directors voted unanimously this week to have air quality tests done at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris, which closed Feb. 6 because of life and safety issues.

The board, meeting Monday night at Guy E. Rowe School in Norway, also approved spending up to $16,500 from the district’s contingency fund to pay for the tests.

Assessing air quality and possible mold and moisture issues will be the first step toward any repairs and upgrades to the 1800s wood-framed building at 170 Main St.

Superintendent Heather Manchester, with the board’s support, closed the school the day after receiving a report from engineers who said the two-story building was not safe for students or staff. They cited lack of adequate fire protection and functional emergency exits; outdated and poorly functioning plumbing and electrical systems; a roof that sheds decayed shingles; exterior and interior stairwells that are not up to code; and a boiler that is years beyond its serviceable life.

About 120 students in grades 1 to 6 were moved to schools in Paris and Norway.

Directors of Maine School Administrative District 17 vote unanimously Monday night to have air quality tests done at the Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris, which was closed Feb. 6 due to life safety issues. The tests will help form a structural maintenance and rehabilitation plan to allow students to return there. Seated in the auditorium at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway are, from left, Directors Jared Cash of Norway, Anna Gregoire of Otisfield, Vice Chairwoman Kitty Winship of Waterford, Chairman Troy Ripley of Paris, Superintendent Heather Manchester, Recording Secretary Debra Hertel, Directors Peter Wood of Norway, Lew Williams of Hebron, Gary Smith of Oxford and Mark Heidmann of Harrison. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

Chief Financial Officer Carrie Colley said seven tests will be done over several days.

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Board Chairman Troy Ripley of Paris also announced that Manchester is working with West Paris Town Manager Joy Downing, Selectmen Eli White, Shawn Boutilier and Wade Rainey, Fire Chief Mike Henderson and Codes Enforcement Officer Kingston Brown to make a plan to address life safety issues and will be presented to the Office of Maine State Fire Marshal.

Representatives of LaVallee Brensinger Architects of Portland, the firm that conducted the inspection, advised in February that repairing or replacing the most pressing systems concerns at the school could run more than $650,000 and take months.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the parent of a special needs student who formerly attended Paris Elementary School, came for the second time to talk about an incident that occurred Nov. 3, 2022, when her child was restrained by the school’s resource officer.

Kelly Adams first addressed the board about it June 20, 2023.

She said Monday that she was prompted to speak up again after reading an Advertiser Democrat story last week about Guy E. Rowe Elementary School’s school resource officer program being suspended by Manchester after a fifth-grade student was handcuffed by Norway Police officer Holli Pullen, the school’s resource officer.

Adams said that while her daughter was not handcuffed by Paris Police officer Michelle Legare, the school’s resource officer, she was taken down and dragged from the room by her feet to be secluded.

“Either SRO Pullen is being treated unfairly,” Adams wrote later Monday night in an email addressed to all school board directors, “or my child just isn’t important to the district and doesn’t matter.”

Adams said the incident, along with other restraints and seclusions at both Paris and Rowe schools, have led her daughter’s pediatrician to document that she suffered trauma, which continues to affect her.

According to law enforcement, restraints, some including handcuffs, have been used at Rowe, Paris and Oxford elementary schools, as well as at Oxford Hills Comprehensive School in Paris.

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