EAST PENNSBORO TOWNSHIP – Midstate school districts have plans in place to avoid mold growth in their buildings during the summer break.
At the start of this past school year, many school districts had to shut down buildings due to mold issues from over the summer.
East Pennsboro Area School District was one of them.
“Stressful,” Superintendent Jay Burkhart said. “I think that’s a word you can use to describe it.”
Burkhart recalls a month of mold at the district in August and September.
“We had to shut the high school down in order to remediate the mold and restore air quality to acceptable levels to bring the kids back,” he said.
There are no standard regulations for air quality or mold particle levels for schools, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Tests in East Pennsboro revealed humidity and rain caused the mold buildup.
Allergist Dr. Robert Zuckerman in Harrisburg says mold can cause sickness in about 20 percent of children.
“Those allergic reactions could be related to their skin, which could be itchy,” Zuckerman said. “It could be related to their eyes; itchy, red and runny.”
He says children and adults with asthma could have more severe reactions.
So how are schools like East Pennsboro learning from last year?
“We are installing an outside air system in one elementary school to help control the humidity,” Burkhart said, adding that the installation will occur this summer.
He said maintenance workers will monitor the buildings frequently for mold and water leaks that cause it. The district will also keep its air conditioning on throughout the summer.
“Lowering those temperatures so that the air flow through the building continues,” Burkhart said.
West Shore School District Superintendent Todd Stoltz said his district will do many of the same things, including frequent monitoring. He said maintenance workers are putting dehumidifiers in trouble spots and keeping the air conditioning on in more places around the buildings.
Workers are replacing a boiler at Cedar Cliff High School this summer, which was always the plan, but Stoltz believes this will remedy some of the mold issues, as well.
“It’s not unexpected for schools to have mold problems,” Zuckerman said. “It’s a large building with a lot of people in it, and where mold is coming from is humidity.”
District officials say they now know what to look for and how to fix it before students get back on the bus.
“Just the ongoing monitoring of setbacks as we head into the summer where humidity tends to increase,” Burkhart said.