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Mold issues grow in schools

October 4, 2018

STAMFORD — Heavy rain and humidity has caused an unusual amount of mold to grow up and down the East Coast, including in half of the city’s public schools.

Stamford Public Schools has already been billed $266,000 — including nearly $130,000 for K.T. Murphy Elementary School — to resolve mold issues this year and is seeking funds to cover a growing list of new problems.

“It’s unusual for a variety of reasons,” said Clarence Zachery, the district’s chief fiscal and operations support officer. “It’s been unusually humid all summer long. We’ve had a lot of rain. The ground is saturated with water. The industrial hygienist said in 30 years he’s never seen anything like it.”

Mold has been found in 11 of Stamford’s 22 public schools since August, according to a report from the facilities department. The mold is in various stages of remediation, according to information from the schools and the hygienists hired to clean the buildings.

District officials said they are examining the operating budget to determine how to pay for the remediation. The district has not paid the $266,000 it has been billed and has not received invoices for seven other remediations.

And it appears the bills will continue to mount.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet,” Zachery said at a Board of Education meeting last week. “It’s going to be an ongoing issue.”

Zachery said mold has been a particular problem at K.T. Murphy Elementary School, where remediation has already cost nearly $130,000. The problems were first discovered when custodians returned from summer break and found mold in the auditorium, a classroom and a closet.

“It was all over the seats in the auditorium,” Zachery said. “It was literally everywhere.”

The areas were cleaned, but Zachery said the mold returned several days later. Mold has since also been removed from classrooms, adjacent hallways, closets and a custodial room.

One classroom and the auditorium are due to be cleaned again, according to a report compiled Monday by the facilities department. The gym roof bulkhead has also been waterproofed to prevent more water from entering the school.

“It’s an issue up and down I-95 and points north,” Superintendent Earl Kim said.

Zachery said the district has hired outside hygienists to clean and evaluate the buildings.

Zachery said none of Stamford’s schools need to be closed like in Westport, where students were relocated last month from Coleytown Middle School indefinitely after parents complained about mold. Some Stamford classrooms, however, have been closed and students moved to other rooms in the building.

Zachery said mold is usually present in most buildings and goes undetected. The types of mold found in the schools has not been logged.

“We don’t know what type,” Zachery said. “We just go in and start cleaning.”

Mold was a problem last year at Toquam Magnet Elementary School, where some students were displaced for more than a month after two portable classrooms were contaminated.

District officials have requested students and staff to alert them if mold is seen in the buildings.

“We have 21 buildings across the district,” said Sharon Beadle, a spokeswoman for Stamford Public Schools. “We rely on those in the buildings to serve as our eyes, ears and nose.”

erin.kayata@stamfordadvocate.com; (203) 964-2265; @erin_kayata

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