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Firm renders verdict on HCHS mold: it’s isolated / September 12, 2013

The outside firm enlisted by the Halifax County School Board to test for mold inside the high school building has issued its opinion: some problem spots, but overall, no cause for alarm.

School trustees heard Monday night from Dave Violette, an indoor air quality specialist with HDH Technical, based in Christiansburg, on the results of indoor air tests taken at Halifax County High School last week following public outcry over mold inside the building.

Parents and teachers have complained of mold-related sicknesses since the opening of school on Monday, August 19.

Violette told School Board members that the test results showed “nothing [that] stood out as alarming. Overall the building is in reasonable condition. It is far cleaner than many I have gone into.”

Violette said he saw no signs of active water damage in the building. Some of the 13 samples he took showed more moisture outside the building than inside.

But he added, “by next summer you will have to get the humidity in the building under control.”

As for how long the mold spores may have existed inside the building, Violette said there could have been there for 15 years — or it might have been for only three days prior to his inspection.

This summer when a new roof was placed on the A wing of the school, the air conditioning equipment “had been throttled back,” he said, and humidity was higher than usual. That alone was not unusual, he said: Violette added he had gotten a number of calls from several different areas about high humidity during the rainy summer.

“This school system has responded more quickly than most I’ve worked with,” he added, noting that Maintenance Director Larry Roller had asked him to tell him what he needed to do to clear the building of the mold.

Violette said a response plan is necessary and the school’s HVAC system needs to be evaluated. One thing that should be remembered, he explained, is that computers inside every classroom add to the heat load, a consideration that must be included in plans for dealing with the mold.

“While the A/C guys will argue about running the air during summer months as they try to save money by cutting back, it may not be a good idea,” he added.

Earlier in the Monday night meeting, several parents expressed their frustrations with efforts to deal with the mold.

Janet Conner said a doctor confirmed to her that her daughter suffered from mold-related illness, resulting in considerable doctor bills and medical costs. “How can you expect my child to excel while sitting in a classroom that makes her sick? I want a safe environment for our children. I want the problem fixed so other parents won’t have to go through what I have been through.”

Fiona Newton, whose daughter also was treated by a doctor, said she had a 3-1/2 hour-long talk with HCHS Principal Albert Randolph about the problem.

Newton said she wanted more accountability from the School Board and couldn’t understand why the maintenance department had not notified the school superintendent nor school board members about the problem. She added that it was “outrageous” that ceiling tiles had been replaced in several classrooms while the students were present in the room.

Another parent, Robert Carr, chimed in: “What are you doing and where is the mold coming from?” He also mentioned his surprise that ceiling tiles were replaced while students were inside the classroom.

After receiving Violette’s report, trustees said they wanted to further develop a plan of action for ridding the school of the mold. ED#1 trustee Phyllis Smith moved to hire Lynchburg engineer John Owen, who last Wednesday toured the school and later addressed the board at a specially called meeting to talk about the problem.

Back in 2001, Owen led an effort to clean up Jefferson Forest High School which briefly closed due to mold problems. In moving to hire Owen, Smith said, “we have someone who seems to really understand the problem.” Her motion was seconded by ED#6 trustee Fay Satterfield.

But ED#8 trustee Walter Potts argued at length against hiring Owen at $125 an hour to lead the mold clean-up. Potts said he felt the process of choosing someone to advise the board should be more open, with more than one choice offered.

Worrying about the cost of hiring outside help, he also wondered why Maintenance Director Roller was not involved in naming the person to lead the effort.

After hearing Potts’ objections, Mrs. Conner, the parent who had earlier expressed her frustrations, rose up to speak: “The board needs to move on now. We can’t continue to wait any longer.”

Smith called for a vote on her motion, which passed 7-1 with Potts opposing the hiring. Chairman Kim Farson said Owen had suggested to her that the clean-up could cost somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. She said she expected Owen’s bill to run under $5,000.

Randolph also addressed the School Board, saying that certain procedures would be implemented in the building to address the mold issue until further notice.

First, he said, maintenance will not be handled during the school day (while students are in the classroom from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.) including tile removal, minor leak repairs, etc. Second, all leaks will be reported to the principal and associate principal including location, time and area affected.

Completed repairs will be documented to the principal and associate principal upon completion.

Third, daily tracking of students and facility will be in place for affected individuals.

Fourth, weekly meetings will be held with the Superintendent, Maintenance Director and Secondary Supervisor to address mold concerns. The chair and vice chair of the school board will be informed of the meetings.

Finally, parents, faculty and students are requested to report any mold concerns to the principal and or associate principal.

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Remember, Mr. Potts, et al, the chairman contacted the expert. I guess the supt. wasn't available. It's called understanding your role.


I don't often agree with Mr. Potts, but he has more commn sense then all the other school board members combimed.


Wait a minute. How do you know the consultant is the right person for the job? I think maybe you should hire a consultant to help you hire the right consultant. Smith said, “we have someone who seems to really understand the problem.” Quit with these consultants. If you want to be leaders then quit hiring people at taxpayers expense to do your job for you. If you don't want to lead then go home. Everyone understands the problem except for seven members of the school board. You have a mold problem that has been identified. Now go hire a professional mold remediation specialist to remove the mold and the source of the mold.


"some problem spots, but overall, no cause for alarm." From the report: "In closing, the High School building appears to be in good order" And finally, "Chairman Kim Farson said Owen had suggested to her that the clean-up could cost somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000. She said she expected Owen’s bill to run under $5,000." No problems here folks. Move along now. I think someone has fungus growing between their ears.


Vaccines don't damage children , a little mercury never hurt anyone, fluoride in your water is perfectly healthy (just don't read the warning on your fluoride toothpaste) and a six figure clean up cost means the school is in "good order". Ain't government grand.

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