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About the Mold

It was Book Fair Week at school. I’m worn out. But it does mean that the end of the school year is near – just two more events and then summer!


I’m ashamed to tell you how many books we came home with. We were already low on shelf space…

The mold results (air quality tests – they didn’t grow anything just counted spores) arrived on Monday. Eleven rooms in the facility were tested randomly – it should be noted that none of the tested classrooms are the ones that flood regularly. Let me preface the rest of the discussion with: none of the majorly toxic types showed up in the samples. That way you can skip the next bit if if bores you. Google and I spent a couple hours together (that’s all I had time for during Book Fair Week) learning about mold types. I’m still not an expert, but I learned enough to make me feel like something is hinky. That and the way the company that analyzed the mold results hedged their bets with comments like, “Although a reasonable attempt has been made to locate suspect microbes (mold) in the areas identified, the inspection techniques used are inherently limited in the sense that only full demolition procedures will reveal all building materials of a structure and, therefore, all areas of potential microbial growth.”

The problem with mold testing is that there’s no set standard for “acceptable” amounts. So the testing companies set their own. This particular company decided that as long as there are more mold spores outside than inside, everything is fine. Regardless of type. Now, according to the letter from our Superintendent, “The environmental testing company reports that the numbers of detected mold spores was LESS inside than outside, as should be the case.” And that is accurate based on the total spores counted in the report. What isn’t taken into consideration is that there are two types of mold spores that are much higher in the outdoor sample: Basidiospores (released during periods of high humidity or rain and often found in forests and woodlands – radically higher concentration since it’d rained every day for more than a week) and Ascospores (grows well under a variety of conditions and found everywhere outside). There are several types (4-6 in eight of the rooms tested) found indoors in percentages greater than outside. Two of them – Cladiosporium (grows inside where the relative humidity is 50% or higher) and Pennicillium (often found growing in water damaged indoor areas) – have percentages that are higher in every room tested. Penicillium concentrations are triple or more in every room: 3% concentration outdoors compared to 8%-47% indoors. Since only one of those classrooms is near the ones that flood when it rains, I’ve got to wonder where all the other water damage is coming from. Super leaky ill-repaired roof perhaps? They finished putting new shingles on the roof (although they called it “getting a new roof”) when Ellie started kindergarten. Before that, the leak solution was to put big trashcans in the attic to catch the drips. I did not know that when Ellie started school there. Malaria anyone? Also, filled with water those would be really really heavy. I wonder if they ever came through the antique ceilings. Let me say just one more time (in the fine tradition of whoever wrote the opinion letter about the mold test), there’s a real good chance I just can’t read a mold report and I’ve got this all wrong.

However. They “relocated” three classrooms (Ellie’s, the one near the flooding and the one next door to that one) even though everything is FINE. Ellie’s teacher requested a new sink and countertop over a year ago. Mold grows (well, grew, since they took the sink out) up out of the sink in her classroom, she kills it with Clorox and it grows again. The facilities people came, measured the counter and were never heard from again. They recommendations from the mold people were that the countertop, back splash and cabinets underneath be replaced. They’ve only replaced the countertop – not the water damaged cabinets underneath. Which means that they have yet to treat the mold that’s growing back of the cabinets. I’ve got pictures. They are supposedly remediating (that means spraying some stuff while wearing haz-mat suits) in the other two classrooms and testing the classrooms that do actually flood when it rains.

My requests for meetings and documents* have been deferred, ignored and shuffled from person to person for the past two weeks. I let the superintendent know that the people he referred me to will not meet with me or answer my questions. This time, he referred me to the guy I’m pretty sure is responsible for the neglect of the building. We’ll just see how that goes. Everybody (including my new contact) that I’ve sent emails or that I have had short “I haven’t got time to meet with you” conversations with has until Monday afternoon to get back to me. Then I’m going to start calling them each and every day until I get my answers. I’m out of patience and I’m out of trust. Somebody is responsible for the neglect of the building. Somebody chose to neglect EPA requirements. Somebody chose to ignore basic fire safety. Somebody put my kid (and a whole bunch of others) in unsafe and unsavory conditions. I want to know who.

*anything that has anything to do with the fire safety system before it’s stunningly quick replacement in February (date of installation and service record particularly), the past 10 years of work orders for the school (date submitted and date addressed particularly) and the “regular asbestos and mold tests” that the PR guy is absolutely convinced they perform.

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