The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Mold keeps Brandywine Elementary closed, students move to Middle School


By lmitchell@berksmontnews.com">Lisa Mitchell, Patriot Editorlmitchell@berksmontnews.com

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brandywine Heights Elementary remains closed due to mold spores in the carpets.
Elementary classes will be moved to the Middle and Intermediate School. The first day of school for BHES students will be Tuesday, Sept. 3.
“I didn’t make this decision lightly. The safety of the students and staff is first and foremost,” said Superintendent Andrew Potteiger.
The latest round of air tests come back clear, however the carpet samples have not, reported Potteiger. Test results showed elevated counts of mold spores in eight classrooms in the carpets. While the air quality has greatly improved, the issue remains the carpets, mold spores that cannot be seen, said Potteiger.
“Our expert said he has never seen a case like this. We went through every protocol,” said Potteiger.
The carpets are mold resistant, have a short pile of 1/8 inch thick, made of a synthetic material and were cleaned aggressively four times.
“He’s never seen it not work. He recommended removing the carpets, there’s nothing else left to try.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 3, elementary students will report directly to the Intermediate/Middle School. Potteiger said a space for instruction has been established for each class while attempting to keep grade levels in common areas.
“Everything should be as it would be in the elementary school. It’s just going to be in a different location.”
Special classes like art, music and library science will be held in regular education classrooms. Middle and Intermediate school core instruction classes have not been affected by the shuffling of classroom use.
“I tell parents it’s a reutilization of space,” said Potteiger. “It’s tight. This is not a long-term solution. It’s a short-term solution. With everyone’s patience and flexibility this will work.”
Schedules are not affected. Middle school buses will still arrive first followed by Elementary and Intermediate students, the later two groups already ride on the same bus route.
“I apologize for the inconvenience this has on students and parents. This plan is going to require patience, flexibility and support from everyone,” said Potteiger. “The good news is we have a great community, families, staff and children who can make the best out of this challenging situation.”
What to expect on the first day
Elementary and Intermediate students will be dropped off at the Middle/Intermediate School Auditorium entrance. Parents will drop off their elementary students at the back part of the building at the special education entrance. Signs will direct where to go.
Elementary students will first gather in the auditorium.
“It’s going to be a new location, a new environment for the students,” said Potteiger, who said structural organization will help to alleviate any nervousness students feel.
“We will start the day off together as a group.”
Students will find their teachers in the auditorium and from there their teachers will lead them to their classrooms.
“Tuesday really is about having good organization, having a calm day. It’s a transitional day.”
Time line of the mold issue
Brandywine conducted its normal summer cleaning. At the end of July mold on the carpets appeared. A special disinfectant cleaner was used and the mold appeared to go away. An air quality test was taken to be safe.
When the test results arrived, Service Master was called in about a week before the start of school to clean everything: walls, furniture, floors and carpets.
An air quality test #2 and carpet test was conducted Aug. 22. Potteiger noted that the lab work takes about a day or two to complete.
Test results arrived the Friday, Aug. 23, showing three classrooms with air quality issues and 18 carpets showing elevated mold spore counts.
Service Master’s lab matched the mold spore with a cleaner and used an 18 percent peroxide chemical over the weekend Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25. Test #3 was taken on Monday, Aug. 26, the first day of school for everyone but the elementary students.
Test results returned Tuesday, Aug. 27, still showing mold spores in the carpets. Air test showed NO concerns but 11 rooms with issues (3 high and 8 medium) in the carpets. The carpets were cleaned with a higher concentration of the cleaner and tested again. Test #4 results late Thursday, Aug. 29, still showed signs of mold spores in the carpets in eight classrooms with continued issues (2 high and 6 medium) and three improved.
Friday morning, Aug. 30, the decision to move students to the Middle/Intermediate School was announced and staff began moving to their new classrooms.
What’s Next?
“This is a short-term solution until we are able to remove and replace the flooring,” said Potteiger.
The School Board will be holding a Special Board Meeting on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. to determine the next course of action for the Elementary School floor. Meeting will be held in the high school auditorium.
“Thank you for your patience and understanding. These decisions were not taken lightly and are made to ensure the safety of students and staff. I apologize for this inconvenience,” said Potteiger.