LAKEHURST – Families packed the Lakehurst Community Center Wednesday for updates on how mold growth will impact this school year.
School will start Sept. 6, as planned.
It will not start at Lakehurst Elementary School on Union Avenue.
The Lakehurst Board of Education and Superintendent Loren Fuhring, along with Manchester schools’ Superintendent David Trethaway, didn’t have answers to all questions posed by parents, but did lay out the basic roadmap to the start of the school year.
Officials said they hope Lakehurst Elementary School would be ready to reopen Nov. 12.
“We really are operating under our own school as much as possible, independent of Manchester,” Fuhring told families Wednesday night.
All students will be dropped off and picked up at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, 619 Chestnut St. Students will be taking busses from there to their respective temporary schools.
Pre-K and Kindergarteners will have classes at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pre-K may not start school until Sept. 10. Fuhring said the district will let parents know. She did also ask that families not send their children to school the first day with any school supplies. Teachers will let students know what they should bring to the classroom the first day of school, and students can bring those supplies in that first Friday or Monday.
First-graders will have classes at Whiting Elementary School, 412 Manchester Blvd., from 8:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Second-, third-, and fourth-graders will have classes at Ridgeway Elementary School, 2861 Ridgeway Road, from 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be having classes at Manchester Township Middle School, 2759 Ridgeway Road, from 7:39 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
A Lakehurst administrator will be posted in each school.
School nurse Mary Ellen Hess will coordinate with Manchester’s school nurses to ensure students have the care they need.
Students with individualized education plans and other accommodations will still have those in place, administrators said.
Families will have to drop off students at St. John’s to catch the busses. The district will post drop-off times on its website before the start of the school year.
The Lakehurst School District will be providing before- and after-care at St. John’s so families can drop off and pick up all their children at the same time. Furhing said there wouldn’t be a cost to families at this point.
Trethaway said there is no financial impact to Manchester taxpayers. Lakehurst school will reimburse the Manchester school district for the bus routes. Both districts use mostly the same curriculum, so there will be sharing. Manchester staff are free to donate supplies to Lakehurst teachers, he added.
And while the two districts will remain distinct, Trethaway said there will be some shared time, such as lunch at Whiting and possibly gym classes at Ridgeway, but Lakehurst teachers will teach Lakehurst students, Manchester teachers teach Manchester students.
Mold was found in the Lakehurst Elementary School toward the end of August after summer school had finished. TTI Environmental was brought in to assess the damages.
Timothy Popp of TTI Environmental spoke Wednesday night, and said they found Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium molds in air samples inside the school. All are common molds, always present in indoor and outdoor air. (None are the black mold type.) However, too much mold can cause physical damage to items and irritate those with allergies and compromised immune systems.
Popp said they collected 57 air samples and found mold ranges from low to high. His team could also see the mold growing on items throughout the school.
“It was pretty visible to us that there was a major issue there,” Popp said.
Every inch of the inside of the school will be vacuumed with the HEPA vacuum. A mild detergent will be used to wipe down surfaces. After a wet wipe, the areas will be HEPA vacuumed again. They will use isolation barriers and air scrubbers during the cleaning.
While there is no government standard for mold, Popp said, they will follow industry standards, which says indoor levels should be lower than outdoor levels.
August brought with it rains and humidity, a perfect combination for mold growth. The school ventilation and dehumidifying system has been running nonstop, even when no one was in the building, but the brutality of this August weather was just too much, Popp said. And schools are the perfect breeding ground for it, with their paper dust and other dust for mold to feed on. Lakehurst wasn’t alone in this mold problem: Brick and Stafford townships schools also had mold issues from the August weather.
“Servepro said it best to me: pretend it was a fire,” Fuhring said. “‘You lost everything.’ They will salvage what they can salvage.”
Teachers have reached out to businesses and other organizations, seeking donations. Several community members asked about donating directly to the school, but Fuhring asked that they hold off on that for now. Everyone is working out of the tiny Board of Education building, and there’s just nowhere to store anything yet.
The remediation and associated costs will likely reach $1 million, officials said. The school district does not have a surplus to take from, and the borough said they are not able to provide any money for the cleanup. Fuhring said the district has reached out to county and state officials for help.