Mounds community debates mold, school’s future

By Matt Daray

 

The future of a southern Illinois elementary school and its students were discussed at a board meeting Wednesday at Meridian High School.

The Meridian Elementary School in Mounds was closed this summer because of mold found inside the building during maintenance. The meeting presented possible courses of action to the public regarding the future of the school.

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Terry Moreland, superintendant of schools, said options such as demolishing parts of the school and sharing Meridian High School space have been considered because the estimated costs of removing the mold completely is approximately $3 million.

“We had to do some homework because we’re stuck with what we can afford and what we can’t afford,” he said.

Moreland said this is a problem because the school is about $18,000 in debt and unless funding is found, they would pursue some of the cheaper options they discussed. He said the district asked the state for funding, but was told none could be provided.

Bob Huff, an architect for J.H. Petty & Associates, said there were 35 spores found on the outside of the school and one found inside, according to a report summary done by Courtice-Grason, an environmental consulting and safety support service company.

“These molds are growing in the building materials, but have not broken out of the wall to the air,” he said in the report, which was given to attendees. “It is just a matter of time before this happens.”

Though attendees voiced their concern that   their children might have been exposed to the mold, Huff said almost all the mold was on the outside walls of the school and it is very unlikely children were affected by it.

Huff also said in the report that the spores were created from excessive moisture in the building caused by a lack of air flow. He said this moisture formed because of a lack of a vapor barrier inside the surface of the walls; a design that was part of the original construction.

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Regional superintendent Janet Ulrich said once the mold is removed, the school will receive a free inspection to guarantee all the mold has been dealt with. She said the safety of all the students is a high priority and the situation is being taken seriously by district officials.

In the mean time, Ulrich said the district is doing everything it can to find money from sources, such as grants to help the school, and will continue to ask state officials for help.

“We are tapping into every resource we can possibly find,” she said. “Yes, (state officials) did tell us there will be no emergency help from the state … this year. We may be put on the list next year. But we’ll continue to pursue it until we can get anything and everything possible.”

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