Primary school clean up complete in time for start of school

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MARMORA – The start of the school year began on schedule Wednesday as school district officials here said mold abatement and remediation at the Upper Township Primary School was complete.

Mold was found in the primary school in August when members of the custodial staff and building administrators were walking through the building performing a preliminary check for the start of the school year. Mold was discovered throughout the building, but there were concentrations found in particular areas.

At an Aug. 20 meeting of the Upper Township school board, Superintendent Vincent Palmieri said the district did not know the cause of the mold, but said the heat and humidity, coupled with an aging HVAC system at the school, could have contributed to the problem.

“We had the hottest July on record, the greatest levels of humidity we’ve ever had,” he said. “A 22 year-old system can’t handle all the humidity.”

A number of local schools were closed for the start of the school year because of mold. School was delayed in Somers Point and Weymouth Township because of mold. Mold was also found in two classrooms at the Middle Township Elementary School, but the classrooms were cleaned and school opened on time there.

Initial tests at the primary school showed that the building was safe to occupy but the district’s KEYS and continuing education programs were temporarily relocated to the elementary school. Staff with a history of allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions were permitted to complete their work at another location.

The district hired Paul Davis Emergency Services to complete the mold remediation and abatement. Work was completed on Monday, Sept. 3. Kindergarten orientation was held Tuesday, and school started for all students on Wednesday.

“Our environmental partners have worked extremely hard to remediate the situation, both safely and efficiently, and by all accounts, they have exceeded our expectations,” Palmieri said in a letter to parents on the district’s website. “Many of our teachers were able to come in over the holiday weekend to prepare for the new school year, however, I am again asking for your patience and understanding as most of our teachers need additional time to set up their classrooms.”

Palmieri said that as an extra precaution, the district will continue to randomly collect air and surface samples throughout the primary school building to “ensure the greatest levels of safety and good health.”

“In the event that we have a future incident, please be assured that all information will be properly communicated with you and done so in an expeditious manner,” he said.

This is not the first time mold has been found in the primary school. In 2004, the district replaced the primary school roof at a cost of $500,000.

A new HVAC unit and ductwork were to be installed this year as part of proposed repairs at the primary school, along with work at the middle school, but voters defeated a $15.9 million referendum in January. A referendum for school repairs was also defeated in April, 2011.

“Although the last few weeks have been more hectic than usual, I am sincerely looking forward to the successful start of the new school year and wish you and your children a year of safety, good health, and great learning.”

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