Ocean City High School closed to students Friday after officials found a mold problem was worse than originally thought.
The school district found mold on Wednesday in six classrooms and the auditorium. School opened for classes on Thursday anyway, but students were not allowed in the affected areas. Late Thursday, officials found more mold underneath cafeteria tables, so they decided to close the school Friday in order to deal with the issue.
“When we realized it wasn’t confined in just that hallway we said, ‘OK, let’s look at everything,” said Marylee Morinelli-Stace, owner of Coastal Environmental Compliance, the district’s environmental consultant.
Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said as many as 30 crew members from ServPro would be cleaning the school through the weekend. She said the goal is to re-open Monday, although the auditorium will not be open for a few days more.
Morinelli-Stace said the reason the high school was affected but not the district’s other schools has to do with its HVAC system. The high school’s system is triggered by heat, not humidity, so the extended humidity in the school over the past week allowed mold to grow.
The primary school has no air conditioning, but that allows more outside air to circulate through open windows. The intermediate school has an HVAC system that is triggered by humidity.
Taylor said that she planned to meet with an engineer later Friday to discuss a way to adjust the high school’s system so that it also can control for humidity.
Ocean City joined Northfield, Somers Point and Weymouth as school districts that had to close due to mold, which can cause respiratory problems for teachers, students and staff.
Morinelli-Stace said everyone deals with mold differently, so while one person could walk into a room with mold and sense no difference, another person might not be able to breathe.
“There are no federal standards regarding mold because there is a quantity where they can say, ‘Across the board, everyone will be affected by this, even if they’re healthy,’” she said.
Students were scheduled to only have a half-day Friday because there was staff training scheduled in the afternoon. Taylor said Friday’s day off would likely be made up Oct. 5, which would have been a teacher in-service.
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