FLEMINGTON, N.J. – The cost to remediate the fungus problem at the schools in the Flemington-Raritan School District keeps rising as parts of some of its six schools remain closed to staff and students.
Fungus found in the schools prompted the district to postpone the first day of school for students from Sept. 6 to yesterday, Sept. 11.
“We had issues in all six of our buildings,” Superintendent Kari McGann told concerned parents and the school board at its regular meeting yesterday.
At the meeting of the K-8 district, McGann presented a methodical review of the timeline of the issues from what she said began in August. She included the dates of reports of contamination testing, through the remedial steps taken, to when test results were received and what the tests revealed.
The district has already spent more than $220,000 on the problem, with the cost expected to rise to more than $533,000. And while the district hopes to recover at least some of the costs through its insurance, it’s not yet clear that it will be reimbursed, according to school Business Administrator Stephanie Voorhees.
The Flem-Rar district is not alone. Northjersey.com reported yesterday that dozens of schools in at least 15 districts in New Jersey have mold contamination.
“I’m not making decisions just by the feel of things,” McGann said. “I’m really relying on what our experts are telling us.”
Here is the status of the district’s buildings, school-by-school, as presented by McGann:
Barley Sheaf School: Rooms 23, 24, 26, 28, 39 and 49 are all “off-limits” until favorable test results are obtained. Air scrubbers are in rooms 36, the art room, library and faculty room “which still exhibit unusual fungal populations and need additional cleaning and addressing faculty room which showed very heavy growth.”
Copper Hill School: “All rooms successfully cleaned.”
Francis Desmares School: “All rooms have been successfully remediated” with the exception of rooms 2, 3, 4 and 6 “which have been isolated and will be re-cleaned and post-tested until passing clearance.”
J. P. Case Middle School: School is fully open.
Reading-Fleming Intermediate School: All cleared for staff and students except rooms 17, 24, and “basement area outside the lower gym.” Contaminated rooms that have not yet been addressed “have been isolated with containment and negative pressurization to preclude pollutant transport from dirty rooms to cleaned locations.”
Robert Hunter School: Rooms 111, 125 and the library are isolated and require additional cleaning and air scrubbing. Once complete, more testing will be performed.
At the meeting, McGann asked herself the question that many others are asking: “What are we going to do ... so we don’t have this trouble next year?
“We are going to rely on the advice of the experts in the area,” she said. “I’m making sure we are taking the necessary steps so it doesn’t happen again.”
McGann said she plans to have “yearly consults” with the school’s environmental expert and “not wait until we have some issues.” She also plans to heed his recommendations, which he will provide in an upcoming report.
“We already own our equipment,” to help with controlling moisture in the schools, McGann said. That includes about 20 HEPA air scrubbers that cost $16,000 and more than $69,000 of dehumidifying equipment. The school also expects that its environmental consultant will cost it about $85,000; it has already paid RK Environmental $35,000, she said.