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Mold turns up in PVMS, Clarksville buildings / September 18, 2013

Along with Bluestone High School, the roster of Mecklenburg County school buildings that experienced mold outbreaks over the summer includes Park View Middle and Clarksville Elementary.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Thornton acknowledged this week that the growth of mold and mildew prompted clean-up efforts at both schools with the start of a new school year. Previously, school officials have noted work at Bluestone to get rid of mold, which received a boost with the summer’s hot and moist climate.

At Park View Middle, black mold was discovered in a classroom closet, and at Clarksville Elementary, staff detected a “mildew smell” in parts of the building.

Once the mold infestation was discovered at Park View Middle, students and teacher were moved to a different classroom, away from the infested area, in order for clean-up efforts to commence, said Thornton.

Local public reaction to the presence of mold has been restrained, in contrast to neighboring Halifax County, where an outbreak at the high school building in South Boston brought forth a stream of complaints and prompted the county school board to hold a special meeting to discuss the problem.

Halifax has hired a building consultant with experience in mold issues to oversee efforts to eradicate any problems at Halifax County High School.

Following the discovery at Bluestone High School, Mecklenburg schools assigned the initial response to janitors employed by Service Solutions, the outside janitorial services company that the division has hired to maintain its buildings.

Recently, the school division retained Air Compliance Group, LLC (ACG) of Roanoke to inspect areas at Bluestone High School where mold was discovered. So far, testing has not been ordered at either Park View Middle or Clarksville Elementary.

At Bluestone, ACG technicians will collect two air sample in the school’s library, as well as one background sample outside of the building. One of the indoor air samples will be collected at or near the desk of the persons working in the library. A second sample will be collected at a location to be determined while on site.

A direct exam will then be performed on all samples to identify active and inactive mold spores, if present. Following completion of sampling, which will require approximately two hours on-site, laboratory analysis will be performed, and a test report will be generated. This report will identify the results of all tests, and will contain any appropriate recommendations for further testing and/or remedial action.

Before he was deployed to Afghanistan last year, Bluestone Principal Christopher Coleman, at the time an assistant principal, shared his desire to replace library carpet with laminate flooring installed by the students with the school’s carpentry class.

Thornton has not ruled out that modification: “We are waiting on recommendations from the firm before we remove carpet [from the library],” he said.

Thornton has also instructed the schools’ chief of maintenance, Wade Wilson, “to coordinate between his men and Service Solutions to check and report any areas where air [conditioning] has been cut off in the summer and check for any moisture in classrooms while summer cleaning is occurring.”

Mold was first discovered in Bluestone High School’s library in May after water overflowed an air conditioning pan and flooded the library. While the flooded area was cleaned up, no explanation has been provided for why the air conditioning to that room was shut off. The damp carpet combined with the lack of airflow created an environment for mold to develop and grow.

In Halifax County, experts retained by the county school board in the wake of the uproar at HCHS have noted that mold is a tricky issue: while an outbreak is likely to recede with the onset of cooler weather, spores can linger and regrow during warmer weather. Also, they note, there is no federal standard for determining troublesome amounts of mold in indoor environments. Recent air quality tests at HCHS showed higher levels of mold outdoors than inside the building, according to Roanoke firm hired by the school division to conduct the tests.

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