Bacteria Lives In Walls Of MacArthur Elementary

By Jenna Hanchard

October 19, 2011 Updated Oct 19, 2011 at 4:09 PM EDT

More than one month ago, about three feet of water filled MacArthur Elementary.

School officials now know those waters gave birth to bacteria that penetrated the walls of the school.

So what's the next step?

Test results show bacteria, including E. Coli, are found in MacArthur Elementary.

The City of Binghmaton Binghamton City School District must now figure out what to do with MacArthur school.

Tuesday, board discussed test results and recommendations from the Broome County Health Department.

Health officials say cleaning the walls may not be practical, cost effective or necessary.

Health officials also say due to unknown variables, they cannot guarantee that all hazards are accounted for.

If the school plans on rebuilding along Vestal Avenue, they will need to test the air to make sure students aren't breathing in harmful bacteria.

District leaders are examining next steps for MacArthur, which range in cost from $22 million to $37 million dollars.

The first option would be to build a new school at the current site on Vestal Avenue. It would be built above the 500 year flood elevation. That projected cost is between $30.58 million and $36.28 million dollars. It would take about two and a half years to build.

The second option would be to build a new school at a different site.
The projected cost is between $31.58 million and $37.28 million dollars. It would take just less than three years to complete.

Tuesday, Steve Deinhardt, Assistant Superintendent For Administration for Binghamton City School District, says there are several alternative sites the district is considering.

These sites include Franklin Elementary, Binghamton Tennis Center Property and Woodland Avenue property, among other locations.

There are however, several challenges from these sites including the amount of acres and proximity to city limits.

The projected cost for option three is between $22.58 million and $25.78 million. It would involve erecting permanent flood walls around the property. That's the quickest build at two years.

If FEMA deems the cost of repairs excessive, then board members say the recommendation will most likely be to build a new school.

Board members are weighing these options.

"They [FEMA] do not want to come back to the MacArthur site and deal with the same issue again and that's true in every case where there has been flooding. They'd prefer to do any mitigation so they're not coming back to the same issues," says Deinhardt

Meanwhile, parents of students from MacArthur Elementary who were relocated to St. Thomas Aquinas are getting antsy -- waiting for a long term plan.

"It's too small, it's too crowded. We want to know what is really going to happen. I'm okay with this for September. But they need to make a plan, long term for us. If it's going to be 2.7 years, they need to put us into a different building that facilitates all the teachers and the children correctly," says Melissa Salas.

They are still waiting for FEMA to come back with its recommendations.

District Superintendent Peggy Wozniack says the reality of the situation is that kids will not be back in MacArthur Elementary by next September.