Parent: South Side just now testing for mold as classes remain in session

With recent delays in the start of school throughout the county due to mold, a concerned parent questioned Dr. Mark Stamm, superintendent of South Williamport Area School District, why it had taken the district two weeks into the school year to begin testing for the problem.

“What specific precautions and remediations have been done in the schools with the mold,” Tammy Miller asked at Monday’s school board meeting.

“We’ve been doing everything preventative that we’ve always done in terms of standard operating procedures. Whenever there have been leaks, we aggressively go after that stuff. We replace any materials that have been compromised, we replace ceiling tiles that become wet.” Stamm said.

He noted that because of so much humidity this summer the district ran the air conditioning units 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which in turn created a condensation problem on the pipes.

“We have identified some places where there was trapped heated air such as between the first and second floors of Central (elementary school). We tried to remove some ceiling tiles there to improve circulation,” he said.

When asked if mold had been found in the district’s school buildings, Stamm replied, “We have cleaned up a couple spots, I won’t say if they were or they were not mold, because we did not test and I’m certainly not qualified to tell you.”

Miller asked why it took so long to do testing for mold when Stamm reported that environmental testing will be done this week at the schools.

“We have been very proactive to take care of it,” he said.

He added they had not found anything that was beyond the normal that would cause alarm.

“It wasn’t that we were putting anything off. We were doing everything that we felt was appropriate,” Stamm said.

Miller questioned whether the district’s maintenance workers had the expertise to safely handle a mold issue.

“You have been putting maintenance staff at risk. Has anyone been wearing any type of respirator or taking any precautions when working with this,” she asked.

She pointed out that some district parents were concerned that the area between the first and second floors at the elementary school was left open while school was in session.

“Any dust or anything that is between the two floors as you open it settles to the ground. Our students are in class and this is the difference between us and Jersey Shore. Jersey Shore let the kids not be there while this is happening. Unfortunately all our children were in the building,” Miller said.

When Stamm noted the administration had conferred with environmental testing companies about the actions they were taking, board member Erica Molino raised concerns about the work being done while the children were in school.

“Was the question asked, ‘Was this a safe thing to be doing while the children were in school?’ Was that specific question asked?” she said.

Stamm replied that question had not been specifically asked.

Miller said, although her children are healthy, she has a concern for other children that have health issues.

“As to my knowledge, people haven’t been notified. Why wasn’t anyone notified that remediations were going on and that there was a potential threat and on those specific days children could have been exposed to irritants,” she asked the board.

Stamm confirmed LIHigh Environmental Health and Safety LLC will be doing environmental testing in the district schools this week and that the results should be known in about a week. He said the schools would remain open during the testing.

Speaking after the meeting, Miller said she was glad the district was bringing in a company to do the testing, but she added it should have been done before the kids were back in school.