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Courtney Tours Crumbling School in Tolland

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Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Ct 2nd) saw for himself the concrete deterioration taking place at the Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland.

He toured the pre-K through second grade school with Tolland Superintendent Dr. Walter Willett and other local and state officials.

Built in two phases in 1999 and 2003, the school is the first in the state to confirm it has pyrrhotite-related cracking, Pyrrhotite is an iron sulfide mineral that both state and Army Corp of Engineers investigations found is responsible for causing hundreds, likely thousands of homes in the northeast corner of the state to show severe cracking.

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The town had core testing on portions of the building last year. In January, the report came back confirming their fears.

The Superintendent sent out a letter to parents last week telling them the deterioration is worse than expected and they were moving forward with creating design plans to replace the affected concrete at an estimated cost of $46 Million dollars. The state would pay 52% of the cost.

“I think this community is facing this issue very bravely,” said Willett. “We have done the core samples and faced it head on and I think that’s an important piece of solving the problem. 

Rep. Courtney says the federal government may help to pick up a large chunk of that expense. He submitted an amendment to the Rebuilding America’s Schools Act last week. It would have the federal government pay 50% of the total cost, dramatically lowering the amount of money the state and town needs to come up with. The legislation passed out of the House Education and Labor Committee, of which Courtney is a member.

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“This is like a natural disaster in terms of what’s happening to this school building,” said Courtney. “This community needs help and they shouldn’t have to eat the cost of a building that’s being torn down after only 20 years.”

Following the tour, the Congressman said he was concerned with what he saw.

“It clearly was a lot more serious than we thought a month ago” Courtney told News 8’s George Colli. “I think the town is doing all the right things. Building a school is a long game and we need to get started now.”

Town officials acknowledge this is a difficult task to take on and the town may need to set up temporary classroom space to put students when the concrete replacement takes place.

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Despite that, they say other towns in the region should be proactive and test and public building that may be affected.

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