Alamance-Burlington school board members have approved a second contract of $495,000 with the Sasser Companies of Whitsett to remove mold contamination recently discovered at Newlin Elementary School.
School board members voted 4-0 to approve the contract during a special-called meeting Wednesday afternoon. School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves; vice chairman Ryan Bowden; and school board members Dan Ingle and Dr. Charles Parker voted to approve the contract with Sasser Companies. Board members Chuck Marsh and Donna Westbrooks were absent from the meeting.
Newlin is the second ABSS school where mold has been discovered within the past month.
Work to remove mold at Andrews Elementary School began last week, under a $652,946 contract with Sasser that school board members approved at another special-called meeting earlier this month. The terms of that contract call for substantial completion by August 28, which is also the first day of the new school year.
UPDATE ON ANDREWS WORK: ABSS put out the following update on the work at Andrews on Saturday afternoon, August 19, 2023:
The contract that the board approved Wednesday afternoon for the mold remediation at Newlin calls for substantial completion by August 30.
However, ABSS chief operations officer Greg Hook told the board that crews from Sasser would begin work at Newlin Thursday and “they feel that can be at or near completion” by the first day of school.
Meanwhile, Hook told the newspaper that he’s developing a “contingency plan” to temporarily relocate staff and students from Newlin, in the event that mold remediation isn’t complete at Newlin by the first day of school. “The curriculum folks are working to determine where we have space to keep everybody together,” he said.
Once the mold is removed at both schools, air quality testing will be done at both Andrews and Newlin to measure mold spore counts on surfaces and in the air, Hook said.
ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler told The Alamance News before the meeting that the source of the mold at Newlin has been attributed to “air flow issues related to humidity.”
The apparent urgency to complete the mold remediation at Andrews and Newlin, Butler added, is “because one of my priorities is [to ensure] a safe and secure learning environment.” He also said that Hook and his team in the facilities department are currently evaluating conditions at other ABSS schools to determine what, if any, environmental and/or health hazards might be present.
“Right now, we only have active reports [of mold] at Andrews and Newlin,” Ellington-Graves told the newspaper before the special-called meeting.
Both mold remediation contracts are being funded by the $3.3 million annual county capital funding (also called “pay-go” capital) that Alamance County’s commissioners have allocated to ABSS for the 2023-24 fiscal year that began July 1, Hook confirmed for the board Wednesday. “We are going to have to put off some other projects we intended to do,” Hook added.
Hook explained to the board that the cost of the contract for Newlin is less than that for Andrews Elementary School because “the footprint at Newlin is a little smaller than Andrews, so that brings down the price a little bit.”
[Story continues below photo of Newlin Elementary School.]
Newlin was built in 1972, and Andrews, in 1973, according to information that ABSS previously furnished to The Alamance News.
[Story continues below photo of cleanup at Andrews Elementary School.]
MOLD CLEANUP ALREADY UNDERWAY AT ANDREWS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Hook said Wednesday afternoon that both schools have a “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.
Butler said during the meeting that plans to install key card systems and cameras at four elementary schools will have to be put on hold. School board members approved contracts for those projects in late June and in July.
Hook warned the board that, between other projects underway and the two mold remediation contracts, “This pretty much depletes our pay-go [capital funding from the county].”
“The days of putting a band-aid on a 50- or 60-year-old building just aren’t working anymore,” Bowden said during the meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Alamance County commissioner Craig Turner, who is one of the two commissioner liaisons to the school board, said this development could mean that ABSS will receive an additional infusion of capital funding from the county.
“From my perspective, it’s [the mold remediation] an exigent need, and in my mind that’s the kind of thing you rely on capital reserves for,” Turner told The Alamance News while school board members had convened in closed session to discuss routine personnel matters.
It’s important to note “how this expenditure impacts other needs,” Turner told the newspaper, explaining that county “pay-go” funding is disbursed to ABSS on a monthly basis, meaning that $275,000 goes into the school system’s coffers each month, based on his calculations Wednesday afternoon.
The county had approximately $7.9 million capital reserve funding on hand for ABSS as of two weeks ago, Turner elaborated in the interview. “I’m just saying there could be a plan for reimbursement,” he said.
Butler told The Alamance News after the meeting that ABSS would have approximately $400,000 left in “pay-go” county capital funding for the 2023-24 fiscal year after the two mold remediation contracts are paid.
“The good news is, the money’s there,” Butler said in the interview, “and we can move forward quickly.”