Area schools deal with mold infestation, heavy rain

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette A crew from Servpro works to clean Jackson Primary School on Thursday. Williamsport Area School District recently found mold in six of its schools resulting in a districtwide delay for the new school year until Sept. 4.

With unusually heavy rains throughout the area over the summer, some local school districts are dealing with water-related issues before school starts.

Jersey Shore Area School District found mold in its district on Wednesday.

“We found some spots of mold over at Salladasburg Elementary and the senior high school,” said Dr. Jill Wenrich, Jersey Shore Area School District superintendent.

Staff members were sent home early on Wednesday, she said, in order for the mold to be eradicated by the custodial staff.

“We decided to close all the buildings as a precautionary measure to make sure what we’re doing is sufficient … We’re bringing in another company to walk through the building,” Wenrich said. “It was found what little mold we do have was surface mold. The measures the custodial staff did took care of it.”

ServiceMaster, a cleaning and restoration company, is working with the district.

“I am hopeful the mold is not going to reappear … I am also hopeful this weekend’s forecast of sun will help dry up some of the wetness we have going on,” she said.

Currently, Wenrich said, there is no plan to delay the start of school in Jersey Shore, but the district will also have air samples taken over the weekend to test air quality as a precautionary measure for student and staff safety.

“We will have the results sometime late Monday. On Tuesday, we will make a determination to start school on time, but I’m optimistic because our custodial staff did such a good job,” she said. “Our students’ first day is next Wednesday, and we’re hopeful we aren’t going to have to delay and can stay open.”

Mark Wall, building and grounds director, said the mold was found on various surfaces.

“There’s been several different areas where they found it on hard or soft surfaces, such as carpet,” he said. “We extract that out with cleaning products … The other areas that we found were hard surfaces that were doors, like on closets that were closed throughout the summer.”

Wenrich said when the custodial staff found it, they cleaned it off themselves.

“It’s a white in color mold. It needs to be wiped off with a cold or damp rag,” Wall said. “Then we use a cup of bleach per one gallon of water to wipe everything down, and then getting everything dry once it’s been clean.”

Wenrich said the district had been trying to prevent any mold issues before the start of school.

“We have a univent system in each of our buildings and our building and grounds director made sure all the univents were turned on the last two weeks to be proactive,” she said.

Wall said the problem was new for the district.

“I’d say it’s an untypical thing, and it’s due to the heavy rainfall in this area,” he said. “This is the first mold remediation that I’ve dealt with here.”

Montgomery Area School District faced difficulties with delays in construction of an addition to its Montgomery Area Atheltic and Community Center because the heavy rain.

“Unfortunately, 20 or 30 inches of rain put us about three weeks behind,” said Dr. Daphne Bowers, Montgomery Area School District superintendent. “Construction got delayed, and the project will not be done on time.”

She said all the fall sports will be impacted with the delay in finishing up the project.

“It’s a slight inconvenience, but we’re dealing with it with the help of all the contractors working here,” she said. “We’re going to have a game Friday night. We have a home soccer game as well. All will go on.”

She said rain halted the construction.

“We put an addition on, so just laying blocks, getting concrete poured, getting the roof on was extremely difficult with the rain,” she said. “As of Friday night, we’ll be able to use the locker rooms, but basically, that’s it until we have final completion.”

As far as the school district’s other buildings, she said the water damage was minimal to small leaks.

“We were able to maintain our HVAC system through all the humidity. We basically have one building,” she said. “With that and several dehumidifiers, we’ve been okay. Just a couple replacements of a couple ceiling tiles.”

South Williamsport Area School District also had some water difficulties, but no mold issues as of yet.

“We have had some roof leaks, understandably,” said Dr. Mark Stamm, South Williamsport Area School District superintendent. “We have standing contracts with the roofing company that comes in and does our preventive maintenance. They do the repairs.”

He said they have been looking for mold but haven’t had any.

“We’re very careful that we keep our buildings on an occupied setting that we’re not having any potential problems with mold,” he said. “We have been watching it closely all summer long.”

He said everything has been very routine for the district as they do checks before school every year.

“We do that stuff every time. You have three large buildings with kids and adults … Simply being cognizant of the potential for mold is something you do anyway,” he said. “I don’t know anyone that does air quality checks all the time, but you do a visual inspection all the time. That’s constant and ongoing.”

Michael Pawlik, superintendent of East Lycoming School District, said the district had some flood issues.

“In our high school, we did have some water in our boiler area,” he said. “In our area where we have our football area and wrestling room, on the lower level of the school, we had some issues.”

He said it had no impact on the start of school on Thursday.

“For safety reasons, for example, we’ll have to replace the wrestling mats and things like that,” he said. “There’s a storage area there, so storage items we might have to replace things in there … It could have been a lot worse.”

Loyalsock Township School District did not have any significant water issues this year.

“We were fortunate this time with nothing major. We may have had some in the township, but as far as affecting the school, we were okay,” said Gerald L. McLaughlin, Loyalsock Township School District superintendent.

Likewise, Montoursville Area School District did not have any significant damages.

“We have had no issues with the rain at this point,” said Christina Bason, Montoursville Area School District superintendent.

Representatives from Muncy School District could not be reached for comment as of press time.