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Air Quality Study Identifies Mold Hotspots in GW Middle School

A study of the mold problems at George Washington Middle School has found that the school will require extensive mitigation work expected to cost at least $120,000.

At a School Board meeting on Friday, May 29, an information item detailed the full extent of the mold issues found in the school. The report described extensive staining and foul odors in older parts of the building, with each instance categorized by room. While most classrooms had less than 300 spores per cubic meter, classroom A 216 had 1,960 spores.

“Safety and Security obtained a contractor to perform a non-invasive (in accessible areas) mold assessment survey to evaluate concerns of moisture intrusion or visible suspected mold growth within GWMS on February 29 and March 7, 2020,” the staff report said. “Fungal spore air and surface samplings were taken from numerous locations throughout the building. Based on the assessment findings, a total of 42 recommendations were made”

Among those recommendations were eleven that will require professional mold mitigation, 30 that require further HVAC contracted or staff work, and one that will require an assessment by an asbestos abatement professional.

According to the study:

Based on our observations, visible mold, discolorations and/or water staining were observed on ceiling tiles, thermal system pipe insulation, and/or ceiling plaster in selected areas throughout the school. Elevated levels of individual fungal spores were detected in the surface swab samples collected from various locations with suspected visible mold growth throughout the school.

Based on New York City Department of Health, OSHA, and US EPA guidance, small areas of mold (up to one square foot) can be cleaned up by either custodial or contract personnel using proper protective equipment. Larger areas of fungal growth should be addressed by professional contractors with trained personnel using appropriate engineering controls and work practices.

“The current estimated magnitude of cost is ~$120k. It is likely that this amount will increase,” the staff report said. “The Offices of Educational Facilities and Maintenance and Custodial Services is in the process of reviewing cost estimates, completing procurements and working with staff/contractors to initiate mitigation work, some of which is anticipated to begin during the first week of June.”

Concerns about mold in the school have lingered for years and been the subject of extensive testing, particularly after students were able to prove there was mold growing in their classroom.

The staff report said the plan is for all work to be completed before school starts again in September, but said the condition of mold in the school could vary based on environmental factors like temperature and humidity.

“There are currently no accepted regulatory standards or guidelines with respect to acceptable fungal levels inside buildings,” the staff report said. “Surface samples are generally qualitative in that they reflect the type and quantity of mold present only at the sampled location at the time the sample was collected.”

The report noted that George Washington Middle School is not alone in needing extensive renovations.

“ACPS’ aging facilities have been in sore need of attention for many years,” the staff report said. “Since FY 2017, there has been a heightened financial commitment by the city to help ACPS address both capacity and non-capacity capital modernization, replacements and repairs. Mitigating and addressing other affects of system-wide deterioration to not only meet compliance but to ensure the health and safety of staff and students is a high priority… While these efforts are significantly improving [conditions] within GWMS, the future will require an ongoing program of monitoring and response in areas most impacted.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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