Teachers at Mattawan High School in Michigan moved back into their classrooms yesterday after a professional remediation company tore up their rooms and carpets, which were displaying elevated mold levels.
Suspicions of mold growth began with frequent complaints from several teachers about musty smells in classrooms. Superintendent Patrick Bird told Mlive.com that the district’s first move was a thorough cleaning of the school, followed by the installation of air purifiers and dehumidifiers.
When the complaints continued, the district brought in professionals from Summit Laboratories to test the air. Two to three rooms had elevated mold levels, but fortunately, there was no sign of toxic black mold, which can cause respiratory problems when inhaled.
“In order to avoid the spread of spores and properly clean everything, it’s best to check the padding underneath the carpet first and extract all water using air movers and dehumidifiers. Then you have to go back and check day after day to make sure it’s dry. Only after this is done can you begin the cleaning process and apply antimicrobials to effectively clean the carpet. All of this takes time and is not a fast process, depending on the severity of the mold the carpet is often replaced all together” says Ivan Jaklin, Owner, ProGreen Carpet.
Co-president of the Mattawan Education Association, Lou Price, told Mlive.com that the problem was likely caused by pipes rupturing last year, and said that the union was “aware of the issue and…kept abreast of the situation,” which “seems to have been adequately resolved.”
The district brought in a professional cleaning and remediation company to clean the affected classrooms, which were mostly in the northwest section of the school and housed the foreign language department. The original problem rooms were cleaned, along with three or four more that were close to the affected area.
The cleaning process consisted of discarding possibly contaminated items, wiping down surfaces, and inspecting ceiling tiles and carpet. Carpets are exceptionally appealing habitats for indoor air pollutants and mold, especially in humid or water-damaged areas.
Bird explained that “we had the company come in and basically go through and give a thorough cleaning to the rooms where we had the concerns and some of the surrounding rooms in case it had gone a little farther.”
The most recent testing data indicated that mold levels had returned to normal, though the district will continue monitoring the situation, according to Bird.
Classes that were relocated to the auditorium and other classrooms are back in their newly cleaned rooms, and no staff members or students have reported mold-related health problems.