Schools district hires specialist to keep mold out of buildings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2002

While school officials across the nation are reporting mold in school buildings, an air quality control specialist says he’s found none in the Vicksburg Warren School District’s buildings.

The school district has started a remediation program and as part of the program, hired Titrano Cooper last month to check air handling systems, classrooms, ceiling tiles and change air filters in each of the district’s 57 separate buildings.

“Mr. Cooper’s primary responsibility is to go building by building and room by room across the district and check for mold and moisture,” said James Price, assistant superintendent for administration. “We are trying to control the moisture in the buildings and make sure the indoor air quality is what it should be.”

Cooper said since his full-time job began he has found no mold in the school buildings he has checked.

“I have found what people think is mold, but it is just a buildup of dust,” he said.

So far, he has checked Dana Road Elementary, where a mold problem shut down the school library for six weeks in 2000, Sherman Avenue and Warren Central Junior High.

The mold problem at Dana was found in July 2000 after a power failure that shut down the school’s air conditioning system for a weekend. Heat and humidity allowed mold to begin growing on books. The school district hired Munters Moisture Control Services of Harahan, La., to clean up the mold. The cleaning process meant shipping the 14,000 books from the library for cleaning at Munters’ Louisiana facility, wiping down the entire library and returning the books.

The cost was $33,517.

Mold has forced some administrators in the nation to shut down schools and spend millions of dollars. Other school districts face lawsuits from students and staff who claim mold spores cause long-term health problems and breathing-related illnesses.

“There is nothing new about mold in schools,” Price said. “People just have a heightened awareness of it now. Hopefully our program will keep us on top of this.”

Price said the main problem being found in the visual inspections is dirt, not mold. The majority of the dirt is found in the mobile units at three of the district’s schools, he said.

“If we can keep things clean, we won’t have problems,” Price said.

To keep the air coming through the school buildings clean, Price said the district follows federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines. One is to avoid harsh chemicals to clean the ventilation systems. Cooper replaces about 40 air filters a day.

“Our main goal is to maintain good air quality,” Price said. “If we have good indoor air quality, everything else falls into place.”

“I don’t want people to worry that this isn’t a safe environment, not that we don’t have our problems,” Price said.