|Silas Willard Elementary fifth grade students have moved back into the school after air quality tests prompted the district to be proactive in their response.
A preliminary air quality test, with the results printed on March 11th, showed a black mold raw count score of 1 - which is largely considered insignificant.
The test was conducted after a teacher at the school complained of a higher frequency of headaches and allergy symptoms.
District officials claim they were told by EMSL Analytical tester Alan Atkinson that the black mold spore likely came in on a piece of dust or a leaf.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, black mold grows on organic matter and can cause allergic reactions and other respiratory ailments.
Interim Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Jim Rich tells WGIL that even though it was a small amount, any amount was worth investigating.
"We looked at different alternatives and we took a look at the tech center out there and it was close and really a nice room so we decided to move the teacher and the students in that room until we could do the full test," says Rich.
The black mold, district officials claim, was not the reason fifth grade students were moved to a neighboring technology building.
The total fungi count, which combined all of the allergens present, and listed at a count of 1,017, was what caused the district to take action.
With the consent of Superintendent Bart Arthur, Silas Willard Principal Angela Stockman sent home an announcement to the parents that students were being moved to an alternate location.
Arthur tells WGIL they had some concerns from the preliminary tests, but they were quickly satisfied.
"Like every old building, that doesn't mean it's really comfortable," says Arthur. "Unfortunately there's dust and people with allergies have a little more likelihood of not feeling well with a building of that age. Hopefully, when we get to the renovations, we're building a new building for Silas with a new HVAC system, that will help people with those allergy issues."
A second air quality test was conducted on March 15th by Aires Consulting without students present in the classroom. According to Rich, Aires tester Daniel Brust said they wished the students had been kept in the classroom to gather a more accurate reading. From correspondence between Aires and District 205, in the three testing samples, normal levels of allergens were indeed present.
Printed results of the test are not yet available to the district, but according to a press release, no black mold was found present in the second test.
Arthur tells WGIL that the District has never moved students due to a high allergen count, but they've also never had a situation with consistent complaints about the air quality.
"We're very confident after this [second] report," says Arthur. "That's why we did the wholesale check, you know, have the air quality checked in the building because we want to make sure kids and teachers are safe and we're very confident now after the Aires report that we can show that."
Air testing was completed at a cost of approximately $3,500 to the District.
Rich says that there has never been a presence of black mold at the school in the past - to his knowledge; so the district's current policies on the handling and removal of black mold are limited in scope.
Silas Willard was, this week, moved up the timeline for Master Facilities projects with a recommended referendum going to the full Board of Education to allow voters to decide whether they want to rebuild the school or simply update it.
Rich tells WGIL that if black mold had been found present during the second test, it would have been cleared out.
"You search for the source of what's causing it and it's usually water entering and getting on organic particles," says Rich. "We were pretty sure, because Silas is an old building with plaster walls, that it wouldn't be there."
Among the updates currently being proposed for Silas Willard in the Master Facilities project was a new HVAC system - which would circulate air, keeping the air quality levels high.
According to Rich, the incident was explained to both students and teachers with a reported strong attendance from the Silas Willard staff.
District Administration even considered having the air quality tester explain the test and the results to the students.
Fifth grade students were reportedly moved back into Silas Willard on Friday - which also happened to be an Institute Day for Silas Willard Elementary.
Classes are expected to resume at Silas Willard Elementary on Monday.