SPARTA, NJ — A classroom in the Helen Morgan School has an “elevated level of Aspergillus/Penicillium, a common type of mold,” according to a statement sent by Sparta superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi.
"Helen Morgan parents are very concerned. Mold can be a serious issue, with serious side effects," a Helen Morgan parent said. "I hope the superintendent is doing everything he can to resolve this issue. I'll be at the next board of ed meeting looking for an update."
The district has not responded to the inquiry as to whether or not any students or staff have been made sick by the mold.
The issue, according to the statement, was “presented to [the district] in some small group instructional areas” in the district's fourth and fifth grade school. The district found the problem in the one classroom they tested. Rossi said that classroom has not been used.
Air quality levels have not been released. According to the superintendent, students remain in other classrooms in the building as they are abating the room with the mold issue and testing other areas.
Calling the measures “proactive steps,” Rossi said testing is going on “throughout the entirety of our campus.”
“The administration has been very responsive to the discovery of mold in one of our schools,” Sparta Education Association President Susan Sawey said. “They are being proactive in testing the entire campus and I believe they will do whatever is necessary to ensure the health and safety of our staff and our students.”
Some individuals who have pre‐existing health conditions may be at an increased risk. Individuals who have allergies or lung conditions such as asthma or emphysema can exhibit health effects from exposure to mold, according to New Jersey Department of Health.
The Environmental Protection Agency classifies mold as one of the “indoor environmental factors called asthma triggers … that can exacerbate asthma symptoms.”
According to Rossi, Karl Environmental is handling the testing and reporting and All Risk is handling the HEPA Air Scrubbing to address the issue, though no timeline was provided. All schools are being tested, Sawey confirmed.
“I am working closely with the district administration and the professionals who are being brought in to monitor this situation carefully,” Sawey said.
Mold, visible to the naked eye, find food sources indoors on items such as wooden cupboard, walls, ceilings, wood furniture, upholstered furniture and carpet, given a warm moist environment, according to “The Remove Mold Guide.”
Mold grows where there is standing water and on surfaces such as walls, ceilings and wood furniture because they can draw moisture from warm humid air. They thrive when the humidity is greater than 50 percent according to Asthma.net.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends keeping indoor humidity below 60 percent. The CDC and EPA, recommend using air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers to achieve and maintain these levels. Rossi did not provide information about whether or not this equipment is in use at Helen Morgan School.
The record-setting wet, warm summer fueled mold growth in closed up schools leading to the closure of a number of area schools. Hopatcong, Mount Olive, West Milford, Butler, Ringwood, White Township, Dover and Watchung have all had to close one or more schools this summer. Some are still closed for remediation.