QUESTION: Were the humidity control devices in ABSS schools turned off all summer? Doesn’t that cause mold to develop?
ANSWER: Yes, according to three sources familiar with the school system’s facilities operations.
The Alamance News was told Wednesday that an ABSS employee who is responsible for the humidity “controls” – equipment that monitors and controls humidity and building climate – called one of the school system’s vendors, Systems Contractors of Greensboro, at the beginning of the summer and informed the company, “we do not want these turned on.” The company was instructed to turn the humidity controls back on after ABSS received the initial reports about possible mold contamination in late July and early August.
When humidity levels and temperatures inside building reach a certain point – particularly when the temperatures outside reach triple digits – that produces moisture that adheres to walls, creating an ideal atmosphere in which mold spores can develop and thrive, the newspaper was told Wednesday.
Another ABSS maintenance worker familiar with the HVAC controls situation said Wednesday, “I wouldn’t say all of them [were turned off for the summer], but some – yeah.”
Several schools that have been identified as having possible mold contamination were to have air quality improvements, as outlined under a contract with Samet Corporation that school board members finalized in July 2022.
The revised list of projects approved in July 2022 represented a reduction in the number of schools to receive air quality upgrades – including improvements in ventilation intended to mitigate the spread of Covid and other respiratory viruses – from 16 to eight, and a reduction in the amount of federal stimulus money allocated for the projects, from $37.5 million in August 2021 to $26.9 million in July 2022.
The Alamance News contacted ABSS public information officer Les Atkins late Wednesday afternoon, asking to speak with someone who could address the issue of whether the humidity controls had been turned off for the summer.
“Some schools were on night setbacks,” ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook said Wednesday in a written statement provided to the newspaper through Atkins. “They only run when the rooms hit 77 degrees. Starting in July, they run around the clock.”
The first two reports of mold, at Andrews and Newlin elementary schools, have been attributed to airflow and ventilation problems, ABSS officials said last week.
Hook told school board members during a special-called meeting last week that the first two schools to have tested positive for mold, Andrews and Newlin elementary schools, have “similar chiller set-up with a separate air freshener system running”; and anytime the chillers or air compressors are knocked offline, such as after a storm, the fresh air system won’t come on.
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