Sunday January 13, 2013

SHEFFIELD -- Frustration was expressed by Sheffield School Committee members at Thursday's meeting that the district was not immediately notified in early Nov-ember after bacteria was found in the water system at Sheffield Water Co.

The district was not notified until more than a month later, in its December water bill, of the presence of Coliform bacteria. Large numbers of Coliform bacteria is a signal that other potentially harmful bacteria could be present.

Follow-up tests by the Sheffield Water Co. did not indicate Coliform.

School committee members requested the district's attorney draft a policy that would call on the Sheffield Water Co. to immediately notify the district on any future cases.

The committee did not follow through with the action.

Superintendent Michael Singleton said that he was also upset and had called Sheffield Water Co. President Beth Bartholomew. He said she assured him that there would be immediate communication in the future.

The district serves about 770 K-12 children, with small children particularly susceptible to bacteria, which prompted frustration.

As a large customer, school committee member Bonnie Silvers said, "Whatever they have set up is not satisfactory in my view."

"I was upset because we have children here," Chairman Carl Stewart said.

In early November, Coliform bacteria was found in four out of 18 water samples, but 19 follow-up tests revealed no contamination, according to Bartholomew.


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In other business, the school committee voted 8-0 to develop a detailed plan for utilization and follow-through on a possible use for a small cottage, commonly referred to as the Yellow House, at Mount Everett Regional High Sc-hool. A plan would need to be provided by May.

The district has allocated $30,000 to repair the dilapidated building that has been a presence on the campus since its formation.

The district has been exploring a possible lease arrangement of the building to the New Marlboro-based Flying Cloud Institute, which offers programs in the arts, science, technology, engineering and math.

Leasing the building would provide Flying Cloud a presence in Sheffield.

Singleton said he's been involved in extensive discussion with Flying Cloud on previous direction from the school committee.

However, science teacher Asha Von Ruden has ex-pressed reservations about the lease because the building could then potentially be off-limits to life science students who have used it in the past.

There are also four large fish tanks in the cottage, which community members have expressed interest in preserving.

Ruden will provide a presentation on a possible use of the building at a future meeting.

In other developments, the Elementary School Comm-ittee met with the school Finance Committee about developing a five-week summer school program.

The cost of the program is $400, if approved, but the district could look into possibly subsidizing the overall cost to allow students to attend.