Some students in the Historic Triangle will have to wait to return back to the classroom.
Two Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools — Laurel Lane and Clara Byrd Baker –– have a mold outbreak which has now delayed the return of K-3 students to the classroom until Nov. 9.
“So we have two schools that had some air quality issues,” said Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for WJCC Schools.
Cox said the division followed CDC and health regulation guidelines over the summer by bringing more fresh air into the buildings.
But “with all the rain, heat and humidity over the summer” officials actually discovered mold in both schools on Sept. 1, she said.
After the discovery, Cox said the district tested the mold, changed the HVAC coils and cleaned the HVAC systems before experts started the remediation process.
The district hired SERVPRO to clean out the mold and as of last week, the mold remediation process is complete.
“This is not black mold,” she said. “This is Penicillium Aspergillus and it’s the most common mold in indoor air quality samples.”
She noted while the mold is not “believed to be toxic,” some people might have an allergic reaction.
The remediation process consists of moving desks and other learning materials out of classrooms and cleaning them, she said. In addition, the district has to test for mold, wait for the test results, start the remediation and then perform follow up testing.
“We’re doing some follow up testing because that’s what we always do after remediation,” Cox said. “It’s not a simple or quick process.”
While two classes of special education students were at Laurel Lane, Cox said they were in separate buildings — pods — connected by an outside walkway and the “students were in areas that were not impacted.”
WYDaily received a tip the workers were not wearing personal protective equipment around the mold.
Cox said they were relying on the experts for testing and because there were “trace amounts” of mold, personal protective equipment “was not necessary.”
When asked if WJCC Schools turned off the AC in the summer months, Cox said no.
“It just depends on the HVAC systems and the age of the HVAC systems,” she said. “We do routine HVAC maintenance throughout summers anyway.”
Besides mold issues, another reason the district opted to delay the reopening to Nov. 9 — the start of the second marking period — was Election Day and to give their teachers a break.
“Again could we have been ready to have students back today? Yes, but we wanted to make sure there was time for teachers to reset their classrooms,” Cox said, adding they didn’t want to add “extra stress” to teachers. “We didn’t want them to feel the pressure of coming in the weekend.”
She said Election Day is next week and the question became why have students in the building for a few days a week when “you could just wait until the following week.”
The other seven elementary schools have returned to the classrooms for the next phase of the division’s Return to Learn plan, a mix of in-person learning days at school with remote learning.
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