Alamance-Burlington school board members voted 6-0 Monday night to approve a contract of up to $3.5 million – to be funded from a portion of the proceeds ABSS received from three federal Covid-19 stimulus relief packages – with Builder Services of Creedmoor in order to remediate mold at Broadview Middle and Cummings and Williams high schools.
“Our intentions are this is to be done by September 5, so we can return back in person [for the first day of school next Tuesday],” ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler said Monday night.
Butler’s assurances drew grumbles and guffaws from the occasionally rowdy crowd inside the auditorium at Central Office, which swelled beyond its capacity and spilled into an adjoining hallway as parents and other community members came to register their concerns about mold in ABSS schools and hear the school board’s discussion.
“As of about five minutes ago, we have crews en route, semis on the way,” Ben Bass, executive vice president of Builder Services, told the school board Monday night.
At the same time, Bass added a caveat: Hurricane Idalia – which was on track to make landfall Wednesday morning along Florida’s Gulf Coast – will affect the number of crews that are available to perform mold remediation at Broadview, Cummings, and Williams, he said.
“The hurricane that’s on its way to Florida makes it a little tough,” Bass told the school board.
Nonetheless, he added, “When you put 150 to 200 people in a building, it moves pretty quickly.”
The first step will be to install industrial HEPA “air scrubbers” to clean the air, Bass elaborated. “[We will] have a large team of associates in this building.” Crews will then “start from six feet up the wall” vacuuming every area with a HEPA vacuum – an industrial-size piece of equipment used to remove mold and other fine, particulate matter – and then come behind themselves and wipe everything down with an antimicrobial agent, Bass said. “Every single thing is cleaned,” including air returns and other HVAC infrastructure, he told the board.
Builder Services estimated that it would dispatch 700 mold remediation specialists to ABSS by late Tuesday afternoon, according to the school system’s public information office.
Once the cleaning process is complete, Builder Services will complete what Bass termed “post-remediation verification,” to ensure that the building is clean and safe for staff and students to return.
Samples will be collected from the air and surfaces and sent to a lab, which certifies that the school is free of mold spores and/or any other contaminants, Bass said.
“We as a school system are going to make sure the school’s clean,” said ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook. “Even tonight, we are working with two different third-party air quality testers.”
Hook said that, at that very moment, representatives from one of the companies were “walking the schools,” collecting air samples, and conducting visual inspections. “We are hoping to get through all of the schools by Friday,” he told the board. Some of the reports of suspected mold had been reported by school administrators (i.e., principals and assistant principals), Hook said.
ABSS officials have said that the presence of mold has been confirmed at five schools: Andrews and Newlin, where mold remediation was completed under a contract with Sasser Companies; and Broadview, Cummings, and Williams.
Initially, ABSS officials said in a press release issued last Tuesday afternoon that mold was suspected at “upwards of a dozen” schools; by Thursday, ABSS had revised that number to as many as 21 schools that may be affected by mold contamination.
Bass told the board Monday night that crews from Georgia and Louisiana are coming to perform the mold remediation at Broadview, Cummings, and Williams.
School board members subsequently voted 6-0 to approve the contract “up to $3.5 million” with Builder Services.
“Come next Tuesday,” school board member Dan Ingle summarized after the vote, “once the school has been cleaned, we’re coming back to school.”
ABSS students are currently scheduled to begin the 2023-24 school year next Tuesday, September 5, due to the mold concerns. They had been scheduled to start the new school year on Monday, August 28.
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