STAFFORD – Parents can rest assured that they will see final reports on the mold testing in Stafford schools by September 25. Superintendent George Chidiac announced during a special board meeting on September 19 that he will release official reports on the mold remediation progress once he has a report for all five schools.
Since the beginning of this new school year, Stafford Township School District officials have been working to remediate mold initially discovered in the McKinley Ave School. Letters were then sent out to the parents of those students who were relocated to other classrooms due to mold.
“As a parent, myself as a parent, you want to know how this will affect your child and if it does, you want to know about it, and if not, you’re not going worry about it,” said Chidiac, noting why the district sent out selective letters.
It was later discovered, through further testing, that mold had grown in all five of the district’s buildings, displacing students since day one. Even with such a pervasive issue, Stafford schools have remained open.
“Stafford is fortunate to relocate our children because we have availability [and space], where as other districts don’t have that,” he added.
As of Sept. 19, Chidiac stated that the Oxycocus, McKinley and Intermediate Schools have all been cleared; the Primary Learning Center still has three classrooms left to be cleared; and the Ocean Acres School has one closet space left to clear.
“Each and every building has been evaluated, additional air testing has been performed in certain rooms as a result of the foregoing evaluations,” stated Chidiac. “Any room found to contain higher levels of mold has been sealed off, and will remain sealed, until clean and cleared by way of follow up air testing.”
While progress has certainly been made since the initial discovery in McKinley, district parents continue to express issues with transparency and communication with the school officials. The release of the final reports is welcome news to many.
Amanda Teymont is a parent in the district with child in the McKinley school. Present at the previous meeting to discuss the mold on Sept. 5, Teymont openly expressed her concerns to Chidiac and school officials about a parent’s right to see the numbers, especially when it concerns their children.
“The last results we saw were August 16, so I don’t know why,” she said. “Three days after the mold was found was August 16…in all these other weeks nothings been able to be physically produced to look over.”
Teymont stated that she met with Chidiac alongside other parents following the first meeting in September, where she was given the August 16 results.
Chidiac explained to parents that the information the district receives, and when, hinges on the hygienist, Coastal Environmental. Coastal Environmental brought in two mold remediation companies, Service Master and Belfor, to do the physical work of mold removal in the schools. The hygienist acts as somewhat of “an inspector,” in these cases, according to Bryan Gardella of Service Master.
“The rational is: let’s get all the reports and let’s put them up there at once [on the district website],” said Chidiac. “It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that other parents are going to say ‘how come not my child’s school.’”
The reports are expected to be in the hands of school officials by Sept. 25, and all schools cleared. They will be posted on the district’s website for all parents to access. Prior to that date, Chidiac noted that parents can submit an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to get a hold of whatever reports are available.
Officials also stated that Intermediate students will find themselves back in their original classrooms by Sept. 20, midday.
New Preventative Measures
In an effort to prevent another mold mishap in the future, Stafford has taken to revising their preventative maintenance plan to incorporate more frequent and thorough inspections.
Interim Business Administrator John Perinez noted that “we examined the preventative maintenance plan specifically for items that involve the intrusion of water that would penetrate the building from the outside, or even water that can come from sources inside.”
What they found was that examinations or inspections into these areas were not happening frequently enough.
Some of the recommended changes to the new prevention plan include:
- Performing inspections on a monthly basis (as opposed to the former semi-annual basis)
- Inspecting windows and doors on a weekly basis (as opposed to the former annual basis)
- Changing HVAC filters and inspecting coils and motors quarterly
Custodians will also be trained to check for these water intrusions annually, as well as expected to perform them weekly.
“It doesn’t take but a few more minutes…to see if there is a water intrusion,” he said.
While two HVAC specialists were hired in July of this year, the district now recognizes a need for more manpower with the addition of air conditioning units in certain buildings and the preexisting HVAC units.
“The district has already placed an advertisement for an additional certified technician, who we intend to use solely on a preventative maintenance basis,” said Perinez.
This individual will work from 12-8 p.m. to allow time for indoor and outdoor inspections, without disrupting class time.