North Carolina – For the second time this semester, children are being moved from the classrooms of Wrightsboro Elementary School because of mold. The remainder of the students at the school, all 409 children in grades first through the fifth, will not return to Wrightsboro starting Friday and through the end of the school year. They will be moved to Holly Shelter Middle School starting April 5, following the district’s spring break.
Mold spores were found in air samples above the ceilings in several of Wrightsboro’s newer buildings, built in 2000, said Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning, technology and operations. The testing was done by Phoenix Enviro Corp. of Wilmington.
The type of mold found was penicillium/aspergillus, fungi the Centers for Disease Control classify as common indoor molds. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine found evidence that linked indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughs and wheezing in otherwise healthy people, and other complications.
“There’s no visible indication of mold,” Hance added. “Most of the mold we found was above the ceiling, and not actually in the classroom air space.”
The first mold spores were reported in Wrightsboro’s 300 and 400 buildings containing the school’s kindergarten population in February. Those students were moved to Castle Hayne Elementary School on Feb. 15, where they will remain for the rest of the year.
and there’s nothing on the surfaces in the classrooms, otherwise they would prevent us from bringing” each room’s learning materials to the new school, Hance said.
Since grades one through five are being dismissed a week before school break, the students will have to make up the time they missed later on in the year, said Rick Holliday, assistant superintendent for support services.
“But we’re not going to use spring break for the makeup,” he said. “We’re going to take our time and do this right. The end result is they (the students and teachers) are going to be in a place without any mold.”
As for removing the mold from the newest affected buildings, “the environmental company will be developing a plan and then we’ll put it out to a contractor, but we don’t know a cost yet. We’re doing a remediation of the other two buildings, and that’s $21,000 for both the buildings,” Hance said.
‘The Wrightsboro cough’
The move to close the school did not surprise former Wrightsboro kindergarten parent Erin Glew. Her 5-year-old son, Elijah Lopes Da Silva, was part of the first group of kids moved to Castle Hayne Elementary.
Elijah started having a consistent cough and respiratory problems soon after the start of the year, she said. Eventually, she had to give him daily nebulizer treatments to ease his cough. Since moving to Castle Hayne, Glew said, her son doesn’t have daily coughs anymore.
“I have no trust with them (the school) now. They can fix the problem, but the damage is already done,” Glew said. “These kids have already been sick.”
When former Wrightsboro teacher Nancy Cox first transferred to the school in 2000, she noticed she couldn’t stop coughing.
“When I started coughing there, some of the other teachers there joked oh, that’s what we call the Wrightsboro cough,” she said. “But that Wrightsboro cough goes away during the summer.” Cox has been on medical leave since 2008 for hip and knee surgeries, but her daily coughing has stopped.
As for Elijah, Glew is determined to get him in a different elementary school next year. An ear, nose and throat doctor the family saw recently warned Glew that Elijah shouldn’t be around dust, and that mold exposure could send him to the hospital.
“I’ll move. I don’t care if they fix it,” she said. “I’m not going to have him go back to a school that I can’t trust with his safety.”