POMFRET — Samuel Morey Elementary in Fairlee isn’t the only Upper Valley school dealing with a mold outbreak. Prosper Valley School in Pomfret has been closed since last summer. The K-6 school, which has about 70 students from Pomfret and Bridgewater, isn’t expected to reopen until the start of the 2020-21 school year. In the meantime, students will remain at Woodstock Elementary School, which is also part of the Windsor Central Supervisory Union.
Last summer’s weather created the “perfect storm” for mold to flourish, said Joe Rigoli, the district’s buildings and grounds manager. “We had an extreme amount of rain and high humidity.”
Under the right conditions, mold can wreak havoc in school buildings that don’t see much use during summer months. Prosper Valley was “locked up” for most of the summer, so not a lot of air circulated through the building, Rigoli said.
Cuts in Custodial Staff Contribute to Mold Problems
At the Pomfret Town Meeting earlier this month, school officials said that a move away from a full-time custodial staff due to budget cuts could have contributed to the mold problem as well. For instance, if milk spilled on a rug doesn’t get cleaned up, conditions become ripe for mold to develop.
Outdoor clean-out drains around the school’s foundation were also found to be clogged, trapping moisture under the slab. “We’ve had a moisture issue for 25 years,” School Board member Robert Coates told residents at Town Meeting. “We’ve never had a mold problem before.”
With mold remediation completed, school officials and outside engineers are now working on how to alleviate the moisture problem so the building, which dates back to the early 1990s, can reopen.
A federal Environmental Protection Agency guide on mold remediation speaks directly to what happened at Prosper Valley: “When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.”
Jim Kenyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.