Pottstown, PA – Rain and humidity proved to be a dangerous combination last summer when many local schools were overrun by mold, causing inconvenience for parents, teachers and students.
Many students had an untraditional start to the school year when officials in the Boyertown, Daniel Boone, Pottstown, Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen school districts announced their schools had severe mold problems.
Large school buildings that sat empty throughout the summer?s rain and humidity became prime targets for mold growth. The primary prerequisites for mold growth are moisture and an organic substance to feed, which in many of the cases was carpeting.
The mold in the Pine Forge and Edgewood elementary schools was dangerous enough that teachers and students were forced to relocate during the renovations.
Instead of returning to school as planned this year, 275 Pine Forge students attended classes at St. Columbkill Roman Catholic Church in Boyertown until Sept 29.
Mold was discovered in the school in early August and created the need to replace the school?s carpeting with tile flooring.
The cleaning process included ripping up all of the carpets in hallways, classrooms and the library.
The doors of Edgewood Elementary School in Pottstown were also closed for several weeks after officials discovered an invasion of mold.
Instead of returning to Edgewood, teachers and students started the year at the Berean Bible Church in Sanatoga because toxic levels of mold were found in the school.
The district also had the kindergarten programs moved to Rupert Elementary School on Cherry Street in an attempt to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Holding classes at the church cost the district $400 a day, in addition to cleanup costs.
Some schools in the area suffered less severe outbreaks, and students were only slightly inconvenienced throughout the cleanup process.
The Upper Perkiomen School District decided to try a different approach in addition to traditional cleaning methods. Twenty classrooms in the district?s Hereford Elementary School were found to be infested with mold.
The Upper Perkiomen School Board attempted to combat the mold by purchasing a $75,000 system designed by a Connecticut firm called New Air Technology that uses ultraviolet light to kill mold spores as they exit air handlers, Superintendent Anita Dutton said.
In July, mold was found in the basement of the Monocacy Kindergarten Center. Until the mold was discovered, the basement had been used as administrative office space for the Daniel Boone School District.
The discovery of mold was an incentive to speed up the office?s move out of the basement. School administrators relocated their offices to the Matthew Brooke Building on Furnace Street in Birdsboro.
Maintenance crews removed the mold by scouring the basement with bleach and replacing ceiling tiles. The problem did not move to the other levels of the building, which are used by students, and the monthly school board meetings are still held in the basement of the building.
The Pottsgrove School District experienced its second mold scare when a pipe burst at the West Pottsgrove Elementary School in July.
Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School had its first battle with mold in 2000, after dangerous mold known as aspergillus was found in more than 1,500 books. Many students and staff members became ill, and the district was eventually forced to shut the building down. This time around, school officials were prepared and helped to prevent the mold from spreading.
Maintenance crews destroyed every particle of mold with the help of bleach and HEPA-vacuums that prevented mold from re-circulatinginto the air.
“The day after the pipe was fixed, we started doing all the things you do when you have mold, and we were looking for it before it even happened,” Pottsgrove Superintendent Sharon Nalbone Richardson said.
Workers were able to rid the school of mold, and students started the school year on time.
Even though the cleanup process was an inconvenience, the situation could have been worse.Many school officials were thankful that the dreaded black mold, or stachybotrys, was not found in the schools. Black mold, which forms when large amounts of water are present, is considered highly toxic and can cause health problems for those who are exposed to it.
This year?s outbreak has left many people involved knowledgeable about mold prevention. Many school districts have learned their lesson on mold and have taken the necessary steps for prevention, including replacing carpeting with tiles, installing more efficient drainage systems and using dehumidifiers to help prevent mold from returning.