Updated as of 3:55 p.m. Aug. 22 to include information regarding mold found inside another ABSS facility, Williams High School, as well as an Elon News Network photo.
The Alamance-Burlington School System discovered mold inside of multiple 1970s-era schools across the county, including Cummings High School, Broadview Middle School and Newlin Elementary. On Aug. 21, mold was discovered inside Williams High School — currently Andrews Elementary School is the only school out of the five cleared to welcome students on Aug. 28.
According to Atkins, in order to begin the school year on time, Newlin Elementary students will transfer to Ray Street Academy, while Ray Street Academy students will be transferred to Graham Middle School. Atkins also said ABSS is aiming to have students back in Newlin by Labor Day.
“It's a race against the clock right now for us because school starts next Monday,” ABSS Public Information Officer Les Atkins said. “Likely we're not going to have the mold remediation completed at Newlin.”
Williams High School administrators and staff will temporarily move to Turrentine Middle School while further testing is conducted. The school is currently closed.
Possible contingency plans for Cummings and Broadview will be made after the district determines how quickly both schools can be cleaned. Around 800 students from Cummings and 500 from Broadview will be affected.
Atkins said that the mold is pathogenic and is not considered black mold. Pathogenic mold is also not toxigenic.
“It does pose an issue for people who obviously have compromised immune systems, people who have asthma and for prolonged exposure in a building,” Atkins said. “Obviously, that's why it's a concern to us.”
Widespread mold was discovered as the school system worked to upgrade a number of schools with the funding that the district received from a bond referendum in 2018. According to Atkins, the district has struggled with some neglect over minor facility maintenance issues over the last few years, which have now led to problems.
The district has spent over $1.2 million on mold remediation and heating, ventilation and air conditioning system repairs at Andrews and Newlin Elementary schools as of Aug. 21.
"It has come to our attention that there are recurring mold problems in parts of these school facilities. Upon closer inspection, it appears that some of these issues have been neglected over the years and allowed to worsen. With the recent construction work and fluctuations in weather, the mold growth has accelerated,” ABSS Superintendent Dain Butler said in an ABSS press release.
Butler’s office declined Elon News Network’s request for comment.
Atkins said the mold issue at Andrews Elementary was likely caused by a shutdown of the HVAC system inside the facility, leading to an increase in mold. He also said it is likely Newlin Elementary suffered the same consequences after an HVAC system went down.
“When you have the perfect storm of hot air in the building, cold air in the building, moisture, condensation, high humidity — with the outside temperatures — it's a recipe for mold growth,” Atkins said.
The most recent mold discovery comes as Southeast Alamance High School is scheduled to welcome students for the first time Aug. 28 after being completed over the summer.
The ABSS Board of Education will meet on Aug. 28 to further discuss the mold issue along with hiring an outside firm to conduct further air quality testing and address roofing systems.