Admin, secretarial and maintenance staff return to work today

SARAH PAEZ/THE EXPRESS Central Mountain Middle School in Mill Hall, above, and Woodward Elementary School in Woodward Township were found to have higher than acceptable levels of airborne mold in recent air quality testing done by the Keystone Central School District, prompting the closing of all nine district schools.

MILL HALL — Since Keystone Central School District Superintendent Dr. Alan Lonoconus announced Tuesday night that all district schools would be closed due to mold problems in two schools, the district said it is being proactive and taking steps to remedy the situation.

Lonoconus said at a meeting with the press Wednesday that the district was conducting more testing on Woodward Elementary School and Central Mountain Middle School, which were both found to have an unacceptable level of mold spores in certain rooms.

“We’re expanding our areas of concentration as far as testing,” he said, to see if the problem is more widespread.

The district has no concerns about its seven other buildings — Central Mountain High, Bucktail High, plus Dickey, Liberty-Curtin, Mill Hall, Robb and Renovo elementary schools — based on the testing already done Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27 and 28, he asserted.

Clean Air Technologies, the district’s air quality testing company, took 46 samples across the district, and only two came back that did not meet the acceptable air quality benchmark, Lonoconus said.

Once the district obtained new samples, it rushed them down to a laboratory in Virginia for testing.

Lonoconus said he expects results of those latest tests to be ready by tonight’s school board meeting.

When the results come in, Lonoconus said, maintenance staff can concentrate their mold remediation efforts.

They must clean the air in the affected areas by killing all live mold spores, cleaning up the dead spores and sucking the air through filters.

In a statement the district sent out yesterday afternoon, Lonoconus said administrators met with Clean Air Technologies and KCSD Property Services that morning to discuss next steps.

“We are in consultation with a remediation company and a certified industrial hygienist. We are establishing a remediation protocol and a plan to rectify any air quality issues within the two identified buildings,” said Lonoconus in the district’s statement.

Lonoconus said he hopes to re-open schools by Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the earliest.

But if the tests come back and the problem is more widespread than expected, KCSD might be looking at a situation like Milton Area School District, which is currently dealing with a weeks-long mold eradication effort.

If that turns out to be the case, and school is delayed for more than a week, Lonoconus said he and the school board discussed relocating students from Woodward and CMMS to other schools, or implementing a half-day schedule.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to do that,” he said.

Lonoconus estimated the district’s cost for remediation at $1,000 per classroom “just for the minimum work.” The final cost, he said, depends on the number of affected classrooms and the concentration of mold.

In response to some parents asking why all KCSD schools had to close, Lonoconus said that managing 185 employees, some of whom split their time between different schools in the district, would be too hectic given the mold problems. He also said that with maintenance crews mobilizing to fight mold in Woodward and CMMS and the administration dealing with mold protocol, running regular school operations would be a strain.

However, according to the district’s statement, today all administrators and secretaries will report to their buildings.

Those from CMMS and Woodward will report to the KCSD administration training room.

Maintenance staff who are members of the non-instructional group will report today to property services. Hourly custodial employees are not yet required to return to work.

School-term employees and faculty also are not yet to report to their buildings.

The school board is expected to review an adjusted school year calendar at some point, the statement said.

The board meets tonight in the CMHS auditorium, starting at 6 p.m.

With schools closed, the district was unable to post an agenda for the meeting on its website by press time last night.

“It could always be worse,” Lonoconus said. “You find the problem, you deal with it, you get the facts, you move on.”