October 15, 2008
by Derrick Denis
The following news release was sent by the Superintendent of the Florence Unified School District No. 1:
On August 25, 2008, it was first reported to the Facilities Administrator that there might be visible mold in a classroom at Walker Butte. The teacher and students were immediately relocated to another classroom. The affected room and the adjacent empty classroom were sealed and all ventilation was isolated from the rest of the school. The Pinal County Environmental Health Department was contacted and confirmed that we had taken appropriate actions. The Extreme Water Damage and Restoration Company and the District's insurance carrier, the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, both assured us that isolating the areas was appropriate to prevent overexposure to students or staff.
Remediation of the area was scheduled for August 30; however, the Trust asked us to postpone that appointment and utilize one of their vendors. The Trust's vendor tested the isolated area on September 12, to confirm the presence of mold. The Trust scheduled remediation for the isolated area for the week of September 22, 2008. The day before work was scheduled to begin, the District was informed by the Trust that we had exceeded our $25,000 liability for this particular site because of a mold related work problem in 2004. Consequently, it was necessary to reschedule remediation with the original testers, Extreme Water Damage and Restoration. On September 26, affected drywall and insulation in the identified area was removed and the areas were cleaned, scrubbed, and sanitized. The rooms remained sealed for monitoring.
On Friday morning, October 10, 2008, follow up tests resulted in readings that indicated the possibility that mold was still present; therefore, we began looking for an additional mold source. All classrooms and ventilation systems at Walker Butte grade 3-8 campus were tested over the past weekend, October 11 and 12. Additionally, although there has been NO indication of mold at Walker Butte K-2 campus, as a pre-caution, a sample of MGNonline classrooms in the Pre-K areas, the portables and the original classroom buildings were tested also. Those results have been received and they are comparable to outside air which is acceptable.
Based on obtained air sample results, and visual assessment, our contracted environmental professionals, Clark, Seif, Clark, Inc., have advised us to maintain school in session at Walker Butte K-8 and have provided a plan for investigation, remediation as needed, and re-construction as necessary.
On Friday afternoon, I met with all the school principals, selected department heads, Mr. Jimenez and Dr. Fuller to plan our response to this situation. Over the weekend several solutions were explored and a preliminary plan was established, including contracting with environmental professionals.
As such, the following shall take place;
We will issue a follow up letter to Walker Butte parents informing them of our specific plan of action and that updated information may be accessed at our website, www.fusdaz.org, under "Mold, Walker Butte K-8".
Sealed letters will be sent home today with all students in the district, grades PreK-12. Please discuss the contents of this letter with your children.
Our urgent situation hotline will also address this issue and will remain current on all happenings concerning this issue. It can be accessed at either 520-866-3523 or 480-888-7531.
Our schools will hold faculty meetings immediately after school to inform staff.
All departments will inform classified staff at 3:30 p.m. or as soon thereafter as possible of this situation.
A press conference will be held at Walker Butte School cafeteria at 5:30 p.m. to inform our community.
A parent forum will be held both Wednesday and Thursday evenings (October 15 and 16) at the Walker Butte cafeteria for all parents at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the details of our plan
We have contracted with an Industrial Hygienist, Derrick Denis, CIAQP, CAC, CIFC, CIAQC. Industrial Hygienists are scientists and engineers committed to protecting the health and safety of people in the workplace. He will discuss the issue in detail: how a problem like this can begin; results of the tests and implications to students and teachers; and how to best remedy this issue.
Obviously, this situation is unexpected as Walker Butte is only seven years old, but as KIDS are FIRST, it must be dealt with directly and as expeditiously as possible.
The rewarding aspect in situations like this is that it gives us an opportunity as a community to pull together and work through difficulties together: a great model for kids to experience and learn from. Mr. Allee, our Walker Butte Principal, has a dedicated, caring, professional staff who will accept this challenge eagerly. As a District, we will provide all support necessary so that KIDS do remain FIRST and teachers are provided with all necessary resources.
As I have mentioned to you before, schools are just like a big family; from time to time we have issues, some little, some big, but when the going gets tough good families hang together and get through it and are better for it.
I've been your Superintendent for just 19 months, but in that short time the Walker Butte community has already worked through much bigger problems than this. We will also work through this one, successfully together. I thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.