SOMERS POINT — Mold found in the Jordan Road School will delay the start of classes as the district becomes the third in South Jersey forced to deal with the health risk this summer.
Somers Point School District disclosed Tuesday that it found mold in one of its three schools and that the first day of school, set for today, has been pushed back to at least Monday.
School officials in Middle and Upper townships, both in Cape May County, also discovered mold last month, though both say they’ve addressed the issue and did not have to delay the start of the year.
In Somers Point, the mold was concentrated in several classrooms at the Jordan Road School, district Superintendent Jeff Miller said in a voice message sent to parents and staff Tuesday afternoon.
Miller said in a telephone interview that the mold was initially found in the school's media center Aug. 31. The district initially considered cordoning off the center and opening the school on time, but when the district's environmental consultant found mold in other classrooms, Miller said, the district decided to postpone opening.
If testing reveals more mold, Miller said school could start even later this year.
Mold can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of people who are both allergic and not allergic to it, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Dead mold can still cause an allergic reaction, the EPA warned, so it must all be cleaned.
Miller said Coastal Environmental Compliance, of Hammonton, was still determining the type and extent of mold. In his phone message, he said the mold is being "taken care of by the proper authorities with the supervision and guidance of our environmental consultant."
Once the cleanup is complete, he said all three schools would be tested to confirm that there is no mold and air quality is healthy.
The Jordan Road School has about 550 students and staff, and Miller said that to the best of his knowledge, none of the children was at risk.
At the school on Tuesday, a truck and a van from Team All Risk were parked toward the back of the building, while a pair of workers offloaded almost two dozen trash barrels and a half-dozen portable industrial dehumidifiers.
At the front of the building, Quirino Castillo, 30, and his wife, Marcella Morales, were there with their children Larry, 5 and Alexis, 9, for Larry's kindergarten orientation. A sign on the school's front door announced that was cancelled.
Quirino Castillo said he was somewhat concerned about the mold, saying "some of these things are a problem for the kids."
Nearby, Dee Rios, 33, and her daughter Jacynda, 5, were also planning to meet with their kindergarten teacher. Rios said she had withdrawn her daughter from day care this week, but with the school closed and her working, she needs another child care solution.
With them was Kathy Smith, 53, Jacynda's grandmother, who would now be taking care of her for the rest of the week. Rios said she was hopeful the mold issue would be cleaned by Monday and that she would know one way or the other by Friday so she could prepare.
In late August, school officials in Upper Township blamed a malfunctioning climate control system for mold growth. Last week in Middle Township, school officials said clogged drains in a climate control unit were to blame for minimal mold growth on desks and shelving in several elementary school classrooms.
In Middle Township, the discovery came after the district spent $184,544 between January and May to fix an earlier mold problem.
Last year in Barnegat, mold kept the Cecil S. Collins School closed from September to December, while crews worked to scrub the school that was built in 1981. Students were moved elsewhere in the district while the work took place.
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