The new middle-school office remains unoccupied after nearly five months because of a scent that nauseates prospective occupants Sandy Lyon, head of the middle school, and her assistant Barbara Johnson. Now the school has decided that the smelly cork boards will be torn down soon.

Stinky cork boards to be torn down from new middle-school office wall

After five solutionless months, it’s official. The cork boards in the new middle-school office will soon be taken down.

While most rooms in the new middle-school building were quickly occupied by science teachers over Winter Break, the main office has remained empty because the cork boards lining the east wall of the new office emit a gasoline-like odor that many, including future occupant middle-school head Sandy Lyon, find nauseating.

So with no fix in sight, a decision was finally made. Lyon said she put her foot down.

“At this point, it’s just getting tiresome,” she said. “We can’t move in, which means Breakthrough can’t move into our old offices. The wall needs to go.”

Once the project kicks off, Lyon said, it should take about two weeks to complete. The remodeling date is still tentative.

The odor comes from natural linseed oil, a component in the making of these particular Forbo-brand cork boards. According to Scott Day, Forbo’s division manager, the gas itself is harmless; however, like most gases, it can be overwhelming in high concentrations and over extended periods of time.

But it wasn’t as if the odor took the builders by surprise – it was already known that the boards would have an odd smell, said Laura Rambin, principal architect at Studio Bondy Architecture. All Forbo cork boards are initially infused with the scent of linseed oil. But usually, she said, the boards sit in warehouses before being sold, and, therefore, air out. By the time the boards are bought, their odor has almost or completely dissipated.

And therein lies the problem – the people involved in the installation of these boards thought that the boards were in that “almost dissipated” stage. They thought that the smell would fade away after a few days; then a few weeks; then a few months.

According to headmaster Stephen Repsher, the building’s architects selected an unusual creamy color for the boards, meaning that the school’s boards were probably freshly made. It’s likely that they spent very little time airing out in the warehouses before being shipped.

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