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Wet carpeting leads to mold problem at Staunton school

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A long, hot, humid summer and a carpet that wouldn't dry led to an air quality problem at Staunton Elementary that is a major cause of concern.

A letter from Principal Sheryl Jordan alerted parents of the situation on Sept. 1, and of the cleaning efforts, but a few concerned parents still removed their children from the school.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and well being of the students and staff in the corporation," Clay Community School Board of Trustees President Steven Grigsby said at last week's school board meeting.

The problem began when the carpets were cleaned at the end of the school year. The building was closed for the summer with the air conditioner thermostat turned up to save energy costs and the carpet didn't completely dry.

It laid there throughout the summer creating a problem that wouldn't be found until the janitorial staff returned to prepare the building for the new school year.

"Normally this is not a problem, but this year it was," Superintendent William Schad said. "It is a problem that many school corporations contend with, especially on the western side of Indiana."

Once discovered, the rooms were cleaned and dehumidifiers were placed inside to draw the moisture from the air. The cleaned carpets dried, but the smell lingered.

"We've used hospital quality cleaners," Building and Grounds Director Tom Reberger told the board and meeting attendees. Different cleaners, each with a different smell, were used in an effort to make sure that each area was properly cleaned. "Some areas have been cleaned at least three times."

But the smell remained.

It was then determined that the smell was in the school supplies, books and paper materials that had been stored in the classrooms throughout the summer months. Once the classrooms were cleared by the teaching staff of unnecessary paper materials, and furniture allowed to air out again, the odor was gone.

The school corporation contacted Astesco, Inc., of Cloverdale, to perform air quality testing of the facility on Aug. 31.

Two sets of test samples were taken by the company during the Interior Air Quality (IAQ) mold spore test. Samples were taken from four rooms inside of the school.

The second test sample was taken outside, near the entrance of the building.

The findings of the preliminary report dated Sept. 8, reported that the level of mold spores inside the school ranged between 236 and 459 CFUs/meter cubed, while the mold spore count outside was 1420 CFUs/meter cubed.

The allowable level is 1,000 CFUs/meter cubed.

Further test information from Astesco will be available within the week.

As an additional safety measure, Schad said that officials from the Indiana State Board of Health and the Clay County Board of Health have agreed that everything that could possibly be done to correct the situation was being done.

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