School leaders are battling a mysterious mold outbreak at Pequenakonck Elementary School.
Superintendent Ken Freeston announced last week that staff discovered “what may be mold or some other fungus” on 20 percent of the desks and other surfaces.

The school is closed until further notice. 

Although the building air conditioning was on all summer, Freeston said, the district’s HVAC vendor TBS is evaluating the air conditioning effectiveness in treating the excessive heat and humidity experienced this summer.

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On Monday, Aug. 27, Freeston issued an update and thanked parents for their patience and understanding “as we continue to address aggressively the mold issues detected at PQ and to assure the building is safe to occupy when we open.”
Freeston initially thought the building could be open by Aug. 30, but said Monday that the district would need “additional address the HVAC humidity issues, complete the remediation work, and set up and prepare the classrooms to welcome staff and students.”

Another update from the district is expected on Thursday, Aug. 30.

Freeston said the contractors worked through the weekend to remove “affected soft materials, clean flat surfaces and aggressively check cove molding, sheet rock, and ceiling tiles throughout the building.”

The district has brought in Quest Quality Environmental Services, which determined the mold blooms were due to “excessive humidity inside the building,” even though Freeston said the building “feels comfortably cool.”

“The air is too moist,” Freeston said. “Quest (made) arrangements to bring in 20-plus commercial grade dehumidifiers to reduce the interior humidity levels.”

Quest inspected every room to determine which items couldn’t be cleaned and needed to be thrown away. 

After the inspection, Freeston said, a cleaning company, All Pro, came in to begin remediation.

Freeston said TBS, the district’s HVAC service, found the system is working correctly.

All Pro will inspect all drip pans and condensation lines for blockages and leaks and all individual units will be inspected for proper operation. The outside dampers too will be inspected to make sure they are opening and closing properly, Freeston said.

To clean the items that can be salvaged, All Pro will use anti-microbial cleaning and high-efficiency particulate air vacuums (HEPA) for the desks, chairs, window sills, doors, door jams, tables, file cabinets, floors and ceiling tiles. HEPA air scrubbers will be in use until “clearance tests have been achieved,” Freeston said. 

With the dehumidifiers, Freeston said he is seeing humidity levels dropping in the building.

All PQ offices were temporarily relocated to the Middle School/High School. As of North Salem News press deadline, Monday, Aug. 27, the district was expecting PQ to open on time for students, Sept. 6.

Freeston did not immediately respond to questions about how much the mold cleanup will cost the district and whether its insurance carrier would cover it. However, Quest has agreed to discuss the project and address questions at upcoming staff, PTO and Board meetings.

The mold has not impacted the other facilities projects at PQ, however.

Freeston said the roof replacement work has begun and sod is being laid over the completed septic system work. 

Two years ago, the district tore up the PQ playground to replace its aging septic system. A number of things slowed the project until this year, when the district hired an outside crew to do the work.

The playground and gaga pit are expected to open shortly after school begins on Sept. 12 “at the latest,” Freeston said, and equipment for a new playground will be installed in October.