School Year Set to Begin on Schedule Despite Mold Found Inside McKinley Elementary School

Aug 29, 2018

Despite the development of several isolated outbreaks of mold within three classrooms and the music room during recent weeks, Stafford Township School District’s McKinley Avenue Elementary School is expected to open its doors to students when the new school year begins on Sept. 5.

On Monday, Superintendent George Chidiac delivered an email to district staff and parents stating mold had been discovered inside McKinley School and is being dealt with accordingly.

“Mold remediation is currently being conducted in a few small and defined areas at the McKinley Avenue Elementary School,” Chidiac said in the statement, released just before 11 a.m. on Aug. 27. “The district has retained experts who have provided assurances that their work will be completed by Aug. 31. Thereafter, the district has made arrangements to have the building tested to ensure its safe use and occupancy for the start of the 2018-19 school year. We are confident this process will be successful.”

Chidiac said the mold initially was discovered by maintenance workers in three classrooms on Aug. 13, following a period of extremely humid and hot weather. Two of the classrooms were in the “West pod” of the building, while the other was in the “East pod.” The school’s music room also was found with traces of mold. In each instance, the mold was found in or around several interior ceiling tile grids.

Business Administrator Dan Smith said the district’s hygienist, Cathy Ledden – contracted through Coastal Environmental Compliance, which is based in Hammonton – was contacted immediately and inspected the entire McKinley building, along with the connected Stafford Intermediate School and the Stafford Township Arts Center, on Aug. 14. By the next day, testing had confirmed the mold, and work to remove the mold and clean and sterilize 25 classrooms was scheduled.

Last week, crews began conducting the necessary removal and cleanup, which has carried into this week. Also, Indoor Air Technologies Inc. was scheduled to install new humidity sensors within the heating, ventilation and cooling system, which was replaced last year as part of the ongoing referendum project approved by district voters two years ago. Smith said humidity sensors were not included in the specifications for the replacement HVAC units.

“In addition to adding the sensors, they’re replacing all the ceiling tiles and cleaning all the ceiling grids, duct work and HVAC units,” said Smith, who added that the work will cost the district some $192,000, but an insurance claim will be filed to help recover some of the funds. “We didn’t have to keep any personnel out of the building, but we did anyway, just as a precaution.”

Chidiac said further testing for possible mold will be conducted later this week, once the work has been completed, and a plan is in place should mold pop up anywhere else in the building.

“If we have to close the school for any further mold problems, our third-grade students temporarily will go to Ocean Acres School and our fourth-grade students will go to the Intermediate School,” he said. “But right now, these seem to be small, isolated problems in just a few spots, so we’re hoping that once the work is done this week, everything will go according to schedule, and our McKinley students will be in the building on Sept. 5.”

Chidiac expects to send further correspondence via email to district staff and parents either Friday or sometime during the weekend.

— David Biggy

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