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Officials say Southern Fulton classrooms cleared for students

October 08, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WARFORDSBURG, Pa. - A mold problem in the Southern Fulton School District proved more extensive than first thought, but the last of 10 affected classrooms was cleared Monday so students could return, according to school officials.

"They finished the drafting room Saturday and Sunday," Facilities Manager John Mixell said Tuesday. He said the district hired Tuckey Restoration Inc. of Carlisle, Pa., to rid the rooms of the mold discovered at the beginning of the school year.

In September, Superintendent Ralph Scott said the problem appeared to be limited to four rooms in the combined junior and senior high school, but that more testing was to be done.

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"We did end up cleaning more," Mixell said. "Anywhere we found a little bit, we ended up cleaning."

Analytical Labs Inc. of Chambersburg, Pa., tested the air quality Monday and told the district the room could be reopened for students, according to Principal Todd Beatty. He said the company was going to provide the district with a preliminary report in a few days and a more comprehensive report once the mold spores were analyzed.

Beatty said four or five letters were sent out to parents in recent weeks keeping them apprised of the problem and progress in dealing it.

The mold problem raised concerns among some families about the effect it could have on students with allergies or respiratory problems. Beatty, however, said he knew of only one parent who contacted him thinking a child's medical condition may have been linked to the mold.

"My oldest granddaughter, who is in high school, had a problem. She has allergies and asthma," said William Peck of Warfordsburg.

When school started, he said she developed problems during the week that cleared up on weekends.

"Apparently everything has settled down now" at the school, Peck said.

"We had to shuffle people around" during the cleaning, Beatty said. The auditorium was being used for some classes while rooms were in the midst of the expensive cleaning process.

He estimated the cleaning cost at $4,000 or more for each room, not including the cost of the testing. Beatty said he does not know what the final bill will be for the cleanup.

"It's definitely not one of the things we budgeted," he said. The district is trying to determine how much of the cost, if any, is covered by insurance, he said.

In addition to the rooms, Beatty said the ventilation system in three or four rooms also was cleaned and insulation above the ceiling tiles in five other rooms was removed.

In addition to thoroughly vacuuming and cleansing the rooms, Beatty said the process also used negative ventilation, moving air from the rooms and out of the building during cleaning so loose mold spores were sucked outside.

Materials such as books that had mold on them were placed in vacuum-packed plastic bags and disposed of, he said.

"Most of the books we lost were old reference books like dictionaries or encyclopedias," Beatty said. Few new textbooks had to be thrown away.

Scott said last month that the mold apparently was caused by a combination of the wet summer weather and a lightning strike that damaged a compressor in the school's air-conditioning system.

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