KCS Mold Cleanup Timeline & Information

  • News
  • Briana Warner
  • 8/20/2018

KCS Mold Cleanup Timeline & Information 

*Update 9/4:

In addition to the 32 dehumidifiers that have been installed at Capital, the maintenance department has ordered another 17.

The HVAC contractor - Paul Rigney & Associates - inspected Capital High School's system and said that it was beyond its acceptable service life and needed replaced entirely. The contractor indicated that the humidity will not be fully under control until a new system is installed. Dr. Duerring indicated that an HVAC replacement is included in the excess levy and they will do everything possible in the meantime.

*Update 8/31:

On Tuesday afternoon, 8/28, Capital received back acceptable air quality test results for the computer lab. The main office is one of the final two office spaces that is awaiting test results. While the space closed for cleaning, the district is putting in tile flooring. Carpet is a place where mold likes to live and tile is a surface that can be cleaned and sterilized every day. The tile flooring will take approximately 2 weeks to be delivered and installed. Once we have finished the office clean up, we will retest the area to ensure mold levels are below samples outside the building.

We have installed 32 dehumidifiers in rooms with windows or sinks. This allows the dehumidifiers to pump the water outside or down a drain. This will help address the humidity immediately and throughout the school year.

To investigate the larger source and cause of repeat unacceptable air quality levels, the district has hired an outside HVAC contractor to inspect the entire Capital HVAC system and all parts of that system. Their work and analysis began this week.

*Update 8/26:

Today, we received test results back on the final 25 spaces that were cleaned and tested late last week. All had acceptable test results except for three spaces -- two office spaces and a computer lab. School will begin tomorrow and those three spaces will be avoiced until acceptable air quality results have been received.

*Update 8/24: 

Capital High School will be open beginning Monday, August 27. As of today, Belfor has completed their re-cleaning of 25 academic spaces (14 classrooms and 11 offices) and air scrubbers are running. Air samples will be taken tomorrow. Those samples will be hand delivered to a lab on Saturday and results will be in on Sunday. If for some reason there are spaces that still have not achieved satisfactory results, school administrators have put together a plan to keep all students in rooms that have been approved for occupancy by our environmental consultants. 

Timeline

  • July 10 – preventative work order issued for maintenance to test humidity levels in auditorium. This triggered initial testing of room air quality levels.
  • July 17 – air sampling for 22 rooms was completed at Capital High School.
  • July 24 – we received results showing elevated levels in 10 rooms.
  • July 25-August 1 – we reviewed these recommendations and began the purchase order process to hire a cleanup contractor.
  • August 1 – we contacted Belfor to initiate services.
  • August 6 – Belfor began cleanup.
  • August 6 – 26 – cleaning of the whole school and testing. Belfor’s cleaning expanded to the whole school as a precaution.

We automatically test an additional 25% of rooms to ensure no other rooms are affected and through that process, extended our cleaning scope at Capital. Cleaning one room requires both physical surface cleaning and the need for an air scrubber to run for 24 hours to clean the air. Testing can only be done once a room has been air scrubbed for 24 hours. Testing must be mailed to a lab and then we receive back reports via e-mail.

Capital High School is 253,000 square feet.

Questions & Answers

Why couldn’t we have completed the cleaning and testing before school started?

At the end of last school year, the KCS maintenance department programmed in humidity testing in a number of schools – including Capital – proactively to catch levels earlier than they may have been caught otherwise. Without that proactive sampling, we may not have had time to remedy multiple issues before school. In addition, the Capital HVAC was proactively not set back or put under an energy management program. 

In every report of possible mold, we take it seriously and once we receive a report, we take measurements, review the scope, and create an action plan. As you can see from the information above, this action plan and the steps necessary to follow protocol have taken almost a month and a half.

What is the source of the mold?

While we don’t know one specific source, it is likely a mix between both abnormally high rain and humidity levels mixed with an aging HVAC system. We are rebuilding one of Capital’s two chillers and they are in our excess levy for both HVAC and roofing improvements.  

What is being done so this doesn’t happen again?

We know that we need to reduce humidity levels in the school during times of elevated heat/humidity outside. Dehumidifiers have been placed in classrooms that have been identified as ones with a repeated issue. Additional steps are being taken to identify the source of the humidity. We are taking steps to remedy any immediate HVAC issues, and hope to address larger Capital HVAC issues through the extra allocation of funding in the excess levy.

Parents & Families

Do Capital High School students have to make up the day missed?

Students will not have to make up the days missed this week. Teachers will work with students to catch up on all educational material. Capital has built into its schedule an additional 30 minutes every day over the requirement, allowing for increased instructional or bankable time.

What is being done now to make up lost instruction?

Beginning Thursday, Aug. 23, many students began interacting with their classmates and teachers via Schoology, our learning management system. Capital's professional staff will be ready to catch students up in all areas. Every school in KCS has an additional 30 minutes built into the schedule this year above the minimum. 

Mold Information

What is mold? What are common types of mold? How do molds affect people?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control has a broad base of general information about mold at: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm. Information below is from the CDC.

What are molds?

Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Molds grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dry conditions, that do not support normal mold growth. 

What are some of the common indoor molds?

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus

How do molds affect people?

Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.

People with a weakened immune system, such as people receiving treatment for cancer, people who have had an organ or stem cell transplant, and people taking medicines that suppress the immune system, are more likely to get mold infections.

Exposure to mold or dampness may also lead to development of asthma in some individuals. Interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies.

What level is too high?

There is no policy guidance on what level constitute a level of mold that is too high in commonly found molds. The goal is to get indoor mold levels at or below the levels in an outside sample. Any instance of stachybotrys is taken the most seriously and treated immediately. (There are no known instances of stachybotrys in KCS at this time).

What is the process of reporting mold in the school system?

There are two ways that mold is reported or measured:

  1. Proactively from the district – maintenance may elect to run automatic work orders during the summer to test proactively for air quality. This was done at many KCS schools over the summer in order to proactively detect high humidity or early signs of mold in the middle of the summer.
  2. Locally through a school work order – staff in schools may submit a work order to maintenance with a request to examine a report of dirt, mold, humidity, or poor air quality.

What happens after is it reported?

  1. The first step is for KCS maintenance to schedule a time to analyze the reported issue. In some cases, the reported issue may be dirt or something else that folks see visually that is not mold. In some cases, it indeed warrants internal or external air sampling.
  2. If needed, indoor and outdoor air samples are taken.
  3. Staff then look at the scope of the work. Smaller projects (an isolated area or small number of rooms) may be assigned to custodians. Larger projects (multiple rooms together or multiple rooms in different areas of the school) may be completed by outside contractors.
  4. The area/s are cleaned and levels are taken again. We wait for test results. Any area/s that come back with still elevated levels will be cleaned again. This process ends when satisfactory levels have been achieved in every space. Please note that that satisfactory level may still contain mold, which is naturally occurring.

What should I do if I’m worried about health symptoms?

Every person reacts differently to allergens. Our district head nurse and nurses in our schools are paying close attention to the testing results in schools. School nurses will be working with parents and students on any concerns prior to school starting and throughout the year as usual.