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Students and staff may be temporarily relocated if mold isn’t fixed at Andrews and Newlin by first day of school

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Alamance-Burlington staff and students could face an unexpected interruption when they return to school later this month, following the recent discovery of mold at Andrews and Newlin elementary schools.

ABSS officials reported the discovery of mold at Andrews late last month, and at Newlin earlier this week.

ABSS officials said Tuesday that plans are in place to temporarily relocate students and staff to other schools in the event that the mold remediation isn’t complete by the first day of school, on August 28. No details regarding relocation plans have been announced yet by ABSS.

While the source of the mold contamination at Andrews has been attributed to a broken compressor in an HVAC unit, testing is underway to determine which areas at Newlin Elementary School are affected, ABSS officials said this week. The cost to replace the broken HVAC compressor at Andrews is currently estimated at $95,000, according to ABSS.

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School board members held a special-called meeting Friday afternoon and voted 4-0 to approve a $652,946.25 contract with the Sasser Companies for mold remediation at Andrews Elementary School.

School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves confirmed for The Alamance News this week that she, along with school board members Dan Ingle and Dr. Charles Parker, had been physically present for the meeting on Friday; school board member Donna Westbrooks participated in the meeting by phone, voting 4-0 for the contract.

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School board vice chairman Ryan Bowden and board member Chuck Marsh did not attend the meeting; nor did they participate by phone, Ellington-Graves confirmed for the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Ellington-Graves told the newspaper this week that she’s unaware of any reports of mold at Haw River Elementary School, where mortar has separated from the bricks as a result of moisture settling between exterior walls and the brick façade since at least May 2016.

School board members voted 6-0 in late June to approve a contract to repair the masonry at Haw River Elementary. That project is targeted for completion by the time school starts on August 28, according to ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook.

School board members subsequently voted 6-0 at their latest work session on Tuesday afternoon to approve an addendum to the contract with Exterior Diagnostic Services of Apex for the masonry repair project at Haw River Elementary. The original contract approved in June totaled $299,412.84; the addendum provides an additional $8,000 to replace glazing sealant on all window systems and exterior doors, bringing the current total cost for the repairs to $307,412.84.

“There was a math error in the contract,” hook explained to school board members at their work session. “They [the contractor] had listed an alternate but didn’t total it.”

In the case of the mold discovered at Andrews Elementary School, state law contains an exception to competitive bidding requirements which authorizes local governments (including public school systems) to enter into contracts for emergency construction and/or repairs related to health and safety. No board approval is required for such emergency repair contracts, under that provision in state law.

ABSS officials also said this week that the administration is considering contracting with a company to conduct a “test and balance study” of the ventilation systems at all ABSS schools.

Mold spores that begin growing indoors have the potential to cause health problems ranging from minor allergic reactions to asthma and dermatitis, according to an August 2017 letter from Stacie Saunders, then-director of the Alamance County health department.

Saunders had sent the letter in response to site visits conducted at Broadview Middle and Cummings High schools that had been requested at the time by then-school board member Patsy Simpson, following numerous reports of ongoing water leaks and concerns about potential mold contamination.

Both schools were to have had roof repairs, funded by a portion of the proceeds from a nearly $1 million settlement with Dow Roofing in 2018 over defective materials that had been used in roofs installed at Broadview, Cummings, E.M. Holt Elementary School, Graham Middle School, and Sellars-Gunn Education Center in the mid-2000s.

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