Mold, mildew won’t go away at Meyers school | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Mold, mildew won’t go away at Meyers school

Cory Fisher

Despite efforts to reduce mold and mildew levels at Meyers Elementary School, a number of parents say they believe their children continue to have allergic reactions.

“I saw an improvement in my daughter after the school was treated with biocide,” said Marvis Best. “But three weeks ago, her face was swollen – she gets worse when it’s wet outside. She got better over the weekend, but on Monday it happened again. I’m convinced it’s from the school.”

At Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting, eight parents said they’ve seen a recent increase in their children’s ailments, which they believe are related to the presence of mold and mildew.

School administrators said Wednesday they will now team up with the El Dorado County Public Health Department as well as form a task force of parents, school personnel, county health officials and environmental experts to work toward a solution.

This fall, after several students and teachers complained of various symptoms – including allergies, asthma, rashes and headaches – the Lake Tahoe Unified School District requested an evaluation.

Results from the first round of testing in October, conducted by Hazard Management Services, Inc., of Modesto, Calif., indicated that carbon dioxide levels from exhaled air were related to the presence of higher levels of mold and mildew found. The problem was exacerbated in certain areas when combined with moisture from roof leaks.

The school district responded by implementing a series of changes recommended by HMS, Inc., including the opening of fresh air vents that were closed in the 1980’s to save energy. Although heating costs were expected to increase dramatically, the mixing of recirculated air with more fresh air was said to be critical in bringing down carbon dioxide levels.

In addition, carpets were treated with a biocide and a nontoxic antifreeze was put into the school’s boiler, thereby allowing more fresh air to be used for heating.

A second round of tests in January revealed that mold and mildew populations – as well as carbon dioxide levels – had been reduced to acceptable levels in all areas of the main building.

While Director of Facilities Steve Morales said the most recent tests conducted in April showed low levels mold in classroom areas, levels of mildew did “exceed expected levels.”

“According to HMS’ report, elevated levels of mildew may exasperate existing respiratory ailments,” Morales said. “We were under the impression that the air quality was good, but we’re not ignoring the fact that individual students are having health problems. We are going to do everything we can to find out if the school is contributing to these problems. If it is, we certainly don’t want to minimize the impact.”

For years, maintenance crews have struggled with continual leaks and water damage from a flat, poorly-designed roof.

HMS representatives say the elimination of moisture is the most important factor in reducing mold and mildew populations.

“We’ve got a large building with a flat roof – the stresses of a heavy snow load combined with a fair amount of ground movement in a swampy area cause ongoing roofing problems,” Morales said Wednesday. “At this point we don’t know if the roof is capable of being re-engineered with a pitch, and to meet current building codes. Our architects are currently evaluating this as well as possible funding mechanisms.”

The task force, chaired by Principal Karen Gillis-Tinlin, is expected to gather data, determine costs, funding sources and building safety. Recommendations will go to the superintendent, who will then take it to the board.

“You’ve got to find a way to re-engineer that roof,” said parent Scott Parsons. “I’ve seen the water damage and the missing tiles. You’ve heard from numerous parents. Wet walls are a perfect environment – spraying biocide is only masking the problem. You can’t look the other way – you owe it to us.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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