Thank you for your understanding and cooperation with the postponed start of school at Hance Elementary. The purpose of this letter is to provide clear information about the situation, current action, timeline, and next steps.Please take some time to carefully review this entire letter. We have included detailed information for awareness of families.
On the afternoon of August 21st, a discolored ceiling tile was noticed in a classroom. When that tile was removed, there was some visible mold on the outside paper covering of the chilled water line insulation. The chilled water line supports the air conditioning system. This chilled water line is located above the drop ceiling. The building custodian notified the director of facilities management. That room and the adjacent room were visually inspected. Air quality samples were then collected and sent to the lab for analysis.
While waiting for analysis, the facilities department began inspecting all other rooms at Hance. Visible mold was evident on the insulation in most but not all rooms. On the morning of August 22nd, air quality samples were collected from each room at Hance. A representative of Intertek-PSI and a PRSD facilities staff member collected those samples. They followed the specific protocols for those timed tests. A swab test of the mold was also taken in multiple areas. The individual samples from each room then follow a chain-of-custody when delivered to the lab. We received the results at 4:11 p.m. on Wednesday, August 22nd.
Per discussion with a representative of Intertek-PSI who was present for testing and the review of results, it is important to understand some information about mold and other allergens. Mold spores and allergens are part of outdoor and indoor environments. Even though we cannot see them, they are a regular part of our environments. Part of the testing includes a comparison of indoor air quality and humidity in relationship to outdoor conditions. The initial test results showed slightly elevated levels of spores in the air. These levels vary from room-to-room. The swab sample of the actual insulation showed Cladosporium. This is one of most common forms of fungus andmold in indoor and outdoor environments.
While there are certain ranges for consideration of air quality, the Intertek-PSI representative indicated that there are a number of factors that need to be considered when analyzing test results. Different people have different levels of sensitivity to the same conditions. For example, some people are allergic to pet dander or pollen. Other people do not show a sensitivity. Out of an abundance of caution and clear need to remove all of the chilled water line insulation, the decision was made to postpone the start of school. This decision allowed the district to immediately devote all resources to the issue.
Several immediate actions have been taken. First, dehumidifiers were placed in all rooms. Next, the air conditioning was turned off and remains off. The facilities and management staff are now working through a process to place plastic sheeting in rooms to contain debris and mold when the insulation is removed from the chilled water line. Once the insulation is removed, a clean-up process will occur in each space that includes High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtered machines for air and carpet. This process will be repeated in all rooms. When complete, the district will again work with Intertek-PSI to collect new air samples for all spaces. We must then wait for the lab results.
For immediate awareness, school will not be held for Hance students on Friday, August 24th. It is our plan and hope that the removal and clean-up process can be completed in the next two days. If that occurs, we will then be able to conduct the next set of air quality tests on Saturday, August 25th, and should receive the results that same day. Communication and next steps will be based on those results. We will plan to update our Hance families on the afternoon/evening of August 25th with a decision about school for Monday.
When we determine the first day of school for students, we will also make sure that we offer and hold a parent meeting on the night before students return. For example, IF results indicate that school can resume on Monday, August 27th, we would hold a brief meeting on Sunday night to review the most recent air quality testing results and also provide an opportunity for parents to visit their child’s classroom. This written communication is detailed so that parents have a clear understanding of the situation.
As a final comment, the district must also work with a third party to re-insulate the chilled water lines. This will not happen immediately. Therefore, the air conditioning will not be used until that re-insulation process has occurred. The decision to start school will be based on the indoor air quality tests. Air conditioning is a luxury but not a requirement at this point.