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Officials deal with mold problems in school

After a hot, wet, humid summer, Halifax County High School faces a mold problem, and the Halifax County School Board has called a special meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the school board office conference room to discuss the problem.

According to Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller, suspicions that mold could be the culprit arose while the roof replacement project was underway. During that time the school had to disconnect its exhaust fans, which was a contributing factor along with the weather, said Roller.

“There was surface mildew found,” he added.

It has been cleaned, and the entire high school building has been inspected thoroughly by Roller.

“I saw we had mildew, we cleaned and got rid of it. It’s more of what I consider a perception issue now,” Roller said.

The director met with Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph, faculty and central office staff Wednesday to address their concerns.

 “We asked them if they had any problems or concerns or if they see anything to let us know. It was a low percentage of concerns,” he added.

According to Roller, the mold problem was first brought to his attention at the end of July by an anonymous tip that there was mold in the girls locker room and in the A wing of the building.

That part of the building has no cooling in it, added Roller of the girls’ locker room.

Roller inspected everything and was unable to find any mold. It was only a couple weeks later when another complaint came about a ceiling tile that had gotten wet. Maintenance staff changed out the tile and replaced the 40-year-old insulation.

On the first day of school, a teacher complained of mildew on her door. By the time Roller got to the school, the high school staff had cleaned the surface.

“I came in last Saturday and inspected everything very closely…doors, ceiling, above and HVAC,” said Roller. “The only way I was able to spot this stuff was with a flashlight.” 

Randolph said Thursday morning no mold is in the high school at this time. Dehumidifiers have been placed in the vents and in the girls’ locker room, and all vents have been cleaned, and all affected tiles have been replaced.

“There was no major disruption of instruction. We had to move one or two classes, but we have taken care of everything,” said Randolph.

“We’ve got it all under control,” he added. 

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon said Thursday she was preparing an alert to go out to all parents of high school students.

Herndon said mold conditions have been “truly conducive,” and the school is working with an outside consultant from Christiansburg to come and look at the situation.

“I want a safe environment for everyone,” added Herndon.

Although there has been some complaints about upper respiratory issues, Herndon added it’s that time of the year when people are going to have upper respiratory issues “just by pollen.

“We’re being vigilant. This isn’t something to play around with…we’re being very active in a solution,” the superintendent said.

Roller said if the school was aware of the temperature and had humidity sensors, the problem may not have come to this point.

The director is looking into installing HVAC sensors so the school isn’t faced with a similar situation in the future.

“The high school is really, really clean. It was just a weather pattern we were in, and we hadn’t dealt with it before. I think we’ve done what we needed to do,” Roller concluded.