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Editorial: How did six school districts miss mold that delayed class starts?

September 27, 2018

There are things you know you need to go back to school, like pencils and folders and a backpack.

Other things you take for granted. Things like air that isn’t rich with mold.

It appears that wasn’t something anyone thought about earlier this year.

With some schools already in session and others that were slated to start Tuesday, a number of districts in the Greater Pittsburgh area and beyond have noticed they had a mold problem mere days before students were slated to crack open books.

It has been a wet summer and a very rainy August. But that seems like a reason to take precautions, not to have a dawning realization grow on you like, well, mold.

Parents of Highlands High School students got a recorded message about classes being postponed a week. The message came the night before students were supposed to board buses.

Plum, Shaler, Pine-Richland, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland. A total of six area districts have at least one of their buildings putting off the first day of class until the creeping crud can be scrubbed from the structures.

But what’s a little mold, right? It’s not that big a deal. Mold happens.

It does happen, but it’s also predictable. It happens with the presence of warmth, water and spores, and feeds off paper, cardboard, wood and things like ceiling tiles, insulation and drywall. You know, the basic building blocks of an average school.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, people sensitive to mold can have respiratory, eye or skin reactions. Those are more severe in people with allergies or asthma, who could develop fevers and shortness of breath. With a weakened immune system, mold infections can set in.

But hey, it’s not like that same CDC didn’t say childhood asthma and allergies have increased dramatically over the past decade or so. Oh wait, they have.

Huh. If only there was a way to see this coming.

“As part of routine building maintenance, buildings should be inspected for evidence of water damage and visible mold. The conditions causing mold (such as water leaks, condensation, infiltration or flooding) should be corrected to prevent mold from growing,” the CDC website states in its mold FAQ.

Seems like someone should have done the summer reading.

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