One year after mold issues caused problems in several area schools, officials are taking no chances in trying to get ahead of the problem.
In Pleasantville, the cost of remediation last autumn was about $1.2 million after a mold incident at the Leeds Avenue School.
Board of Education member Joanne Famularo said mold remediation is ongoing at three schools, South Main Street, the Middle School and High School, though the school year is expected to begin on time.
"Northfield and Somers Point don't seem to have this continuing problem," Famularo said. "I don't know why we are always behind the 8-ball. It doesn't make any sense to me. Does incompetence breed mold?"
Calls left with Pleasantville district officials were not returned.
Famularo was referring to the mold situations last year at Northfield and Somers Point schools, which officials there are anxious not to repeat. At the Northfield Community School, the first day of the 2012-13 school year was delayed until Sept. 18 after mold was found in a closet Sept. 5, the day before the scheduled first day of school.
This year, "we're actually doing quite a bit," Business Administrator Linda Albright said. "We're taking a multistep approach."
The district had contractors and engineers review the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, re-setting air-intake settings for summer months when the building is less occupied, Albright said.
The district also installed a new computerized control system, replacing an "obsolete" system and making it easier to monitor and control the building.
In addition, several dehumidifiers were purchased and placed throughout the building, daily inspections will take place of all areas that could be problematic, and regular cleanings have taken place using anti-microbial cleansers.
"Just as a way of ensuring problems don't even start," Albright said. 'We're hitting it from every standpoint."
All measures apart from the control system are funded through the normal maintenance budget, Albright said, and do not cost any more than in usual years. The control system costs about $120,000 and is part of a five-year lease that includes other needed technology upgrades, Albright said.
As for last year's remediation, just less than $300,000 of the total cost of between $450,000 to $475,000 was eventually funded through insurance, Albright said. The rest was transferred from other accounts, including supplies, and a spending freeze was put in place.
In Somers Point, mold at the Jordan Road school last August led to that facility, as well as the Dawes Avenue and New York Avenue schools, also being closed until Sept. 18.
Interim Superintendent Bob Previti said the district purchased 10 dehumidifiers - at the cost of $18,000, "but they're high-end and you have them forever" - for use among the various facilities, as well as microbial ozone filters and humidity readers.
"We do a daily review of temperature and humidity, and we move the 10 dehumidifiers each day into each room in the different buildings," Previti said. "And engineers come in every three weeks to reassess where we are and where we need to be."
The district is also assessing the cost of a virtual electric and energy controller for all three buildings.
"We have to stay on top of it. (The weather) is a relief right now, but we have to control climate the best we can." Previti said. "There's no easy way around it. There will be a price tag, but it'll be Groundhog Day (again and again) if we don't do something different. We don't want another nightmare, and we're doing everything we can to prevent it."
Officials at the Middle Township School District, where mold was removed from several classrooms at the end of last summer, could not be reached for comment this week about efforts this summer.
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