Northfield teachers face a freeze on supply orders of pencils, paper, glue and other classroom items in the school district due to the potential $400,000 cost to clean up mold.
The school board voted to approve a preliminary transfer of about $366,000 from various accounts to cover the cost of mold remediation at the Community School the week prior to opening day.
It is unknown at this time if or how much insurance will reimburse the district for the cost of remediation, Business Administrator Linda Albright said.
“It’s going to be a lean year,” she said at a school board meeting Monday night. “It’s going to have a big effect on next year’s budget.”
About $100,000 from various accounts that provide funds for school supplies was transferred to cover the cost of remediation. The transfer has created a freeze in the supply account and only emergency requests for supplies will be accepted, Albright said.
Superintendent Janice Fipp explained it was because there are certain laws governing the transfer of funds to cover a situation such as the mold problem, and they prevent moving funds from reserves first.
As a result, other accounts have been used, but the district reserves the right to use maintenance reserves later in the year, Albright said.
Money was also transferred from salaries, benefits and enterprise funds, Albright said. Enterprise funds include money from cafeteria and after-school care. The salaries and benefits money was available because of late staff changes that were determined after the budget was set, therefore freeing up those budgeted amounts, Albright said at the meeting.
Board member Kevin Milhous suggested that the last phase of the remediation be put off, a move that was eventually defeated by a majority vote on the board.
Temporary filters have been applied to the ducts to capture any material, according to Marylee Morinelli, one of the specialists with Coastal Environmental Compliance, which was hired to do analysis and an air quality report.
Payment of the bill for remediation will be voted on at the October meeting.
The Somers Point School District was also hit with a mold problem that delayed the beginning of classes at three schools. At a meeting last week, parents questioned the school board about the final cost of the remediation and whether insurance would cover any of it.
Superintendent Jeff Miller said the final bill had not been received at the time so there was no way of answering the questions.
One parent was anxious about air-quality reports.
Christal Weis has a 9-year-old son with asthma and was interested to know what was in the air.
Morinelli said the air reports were clean even when the mold was detected, adding that a final reading would be taken and submitted to the board later.
There was also a mold issue at Pleasantville High School and Leeds School late in the summer, although the issue did not delay the start of classes.
Board members and parents in all three districts have been shocked and upset by the seemingly late detection of the mold problems and the high price tag attached to the cleanup.
Pleasantville also had a $400,000 cost from mold removal at the two schools, board secretary Dennis Mulvihill said Tuesday.
Morinelli explained that mold can grow in as little as 72 hours under the right conditions, which existed this summer.
Shortly before school was slated to start, a period of very humid and very wet weather hit the region, which was an incubator for mold in the unoccupied buildings, Morinelli said.
Since the HVAC systems in all schools are set to run less during the summer than when the buildings are occupied, it created an environment for the mold to grow. The mold found in Northfield and Somers Point schools was similar to the types found naturally outdoors, Morinelli said. The mold types were not hazardous in the amounts found.
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