Updated as of 2:38 p.m. Sept. 14 to include video.
Amid a two-week delay of the school year, the Alamance Burlington School System has opened sites for students to pick up free lunch.
ABSS public information officer Les Atkins said the school system worked closely with the department of agriculture to set up sites at two schools on Sept. 5. Other sites will open across the county throughout the rest of this week.
“Some of our families had reached out saying that they were certainly anticipating us being in school at this time and they were counting on those meals and those children being fed during that time,” Atkins said. “So we actually contacted USDA and we actually moved forward with a plan to offer these grab-and-go meals.”
“We do anticipate school starting Monday, Sept. 11,” Atkins said. “We've been in crisis mode. … We're all working tirelessly with contractors and, you know, with our county commissioners to try to get our students back into classrooms and that's our goal right now.”
The first day of the school year was originally planned for Aug. 28, but after mold was found in Andrews Elementary in July, ABSS began testing all 38 of its schools. Now, all schools have been tested and 26 are currently being cleaned.
Nine of those schools have tested positive for a type of toxigenic mold called Chaetomium. ABSS wrote that inspectors said this typically results from invasive water damage over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control, toxigenic mold releases toxins. The CDC said for people sensitive to mold, reactions can include stuffy nose, itchy eyes and itchy skin. Students and parents can see which schools are under remediation and which have been opened on ABSS’ mold remediation dashboard.
At a meeting on Sept. 1, the Alamance County commissioners reappropriated funds amounting to nearly $17 million to pay for mold remediation, cleaning air ducts and cleaning HVAC systems.
Vice Chair of the Alamance County Commissioners Steve Carter said he wants to find the true cost of the mold removal.
“Let’s find out what it’s going to cost and stop this mess, this is berserk,” Carter said.
Atkins said since ABSS does not have a taxing authority, the school system has been relying on help from the county commissioners to repurpose funds for the emergency cleanup.
At the ABSS school board monthly meeting Aug. 28, the school board voted to forgive the first week of instructional days to avoid having to change the academic calendar this year. But after ABSS announced it would be delaying the year by another week, the system is looking at some off-days to turn into instructional days to meet the state’s requirement of 1,025 instructional hours per year.
“It may involve, obviously, taking some days that are currently earmarked for vacation and/or off-school days and making those student days, so we're gonna have to look at that,” Atkins said.