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Insurance Company Will Cover Middle School Mold Clean Up

Mold was discovered in the middle school in August

The mold growth at Manchester Township Middle School was the result of a mechanical issue and clean up and restoration will be covered under the district's insurance policy, administrators said Wednesday. 

Middle school students have been attending the township's high school in split sessions with their older counterparts while their school is cleaned following the discovery of mold in the building's downstairs in August. When administrators addressed the public in a series of meetings that month, they were unsure if the district's insurance company would accept the claim. 

"We just recently found out that the insurance company is going to accept our claim, which is fantastic news," said Business Administrator Craig Lorentzen during the Board of Education's regular September meeting Wednesday night. "They did not find that the district was at fault for what happened. They did determine that it was a mechanical issue."

Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway said that the likely problem was some older air conditioning equipment was not properly cooling outside air coming into the school. 

"That's something we're going to be addressing," he said. 

Administrators have held several meetings with heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialists, mold experts and the district's energy education personnel to talk about other potential dangers for mold. 

"We want to make sure it doesn't occur again, at the middle school or anywhere else," Trethaway said.

Some, including Manchester Patch readers, had expressed concerns that methods of saving energy, such as reducing the use of HVAC systems when buildings are not in use, may have been a factor. But the superintendent said those practices did not contribute to the problem. 

"We were assured that our energy education program was not something that caused the mold or had anything to do with the mold," Trethaway said. 

Restoration efforts are well underway, as the middle school's downstairs has been completely gutted — no furniture, carpeting, ceiling tiles or many other fixtures remain. 

"We're now in the process to start ordering supplies and we will be continually working with the insurance company getting reimbursements for some of the expenses we've already incurred and some of the expenses that we will incur," Lorentzen said. "We're moving forward working with the insurance company pretty much on a daily basis on this point."

It is still unclear how much the total restoration project will cost, as the process is ongoing. The district's insurance policy has a $75,000 deductible, according to Lorentzen.

The district went out for additional estimates from restoration companies but found that SERVPRO, the service initially utilized when mold was discovered, offered the lowest price "by far," Lorentzen said. 

"They are the lowest-priced company that does this type of thing," he said.

After being cleaned, the school's upstairs will be tested Thursday for mold and sealed off from the rest of the building provided results say it is safe. An area of the downstairs that has been undergoing cleaning is expected to be tested next week. 

"If we get a clean bill of health there, then we'll also start working on [restoring] the downstairs," Trethaway said, adding that a renovation period could begin in early October.

"We're pushing very hard," Trethaway said. The gym area may take longer, as administrators are looking to install wood flooring to replace the carpet.

Alll of the district's schools were tested for mold and none was found in any of the five other schools, according to Trethaway. 

"We thought it was something that had to be done," he said. 

In the meantime, administrators said that middle school students have been adjusting well to their temporary home at Manchester Township High School. 

"The students are just going with the flow," said middle school Principal Nancy Driber. The school's athletic director Doug DeFalco has been working with success with other districts to change sports schedules to accommodate the split session. 

Michelle Leigh September 20, 2012 at 04:39 PM
That's great that insurance covers this, but it means absolutely squat if the total insurance coverage benefit falls short of the total cost of the mold remediation. Heck, it's already admitted that there's a $75K deductible that has to be paid by the district before one dollar of benefits even kick in. Is there some type of catastrophic stop loss or umbrella policy that kicks in to cover the deductible or when the mold insurance benefit maxes out? (Here's an analogy: Think of someone with $5,000 in maximum annual medical benefits, yet they just had a $500K surgery so the patient now stuck with $495K balance. Cheap health insurance=individual bankruptcy.) We shouldn't congratulate ourselves until all of these specifics are answered. If the total insurance reimbursement does come up short to cover the cost, I'd want to ask some tough questions as to why adequate insurance coverage was not maintained in the first place.
Dweebers September 21, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Hardwood floors in the gym?! Preposterous! MTMS is known for its carpet-floored gym!!!
Vince Robinson September 21, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I remember when the MTMS was being built. Dr. Cupola took a few of us 4th graders who were going to the MTMS for 5th grade aside, and asked what flooring we thought the gym would have. It was a surprise to learn from him that it was going to be carpet! So it is a shame it is losing that unique attribute, but there will be less of a chance of mold recurrance with the carpeting gone.
Mark Wendell September 22, 2012 at 07:56 PM
@ Vince, HaHa You are the first person I have ever heard like the carpet! For the rest of us it is a talked about joke. One benefit with the carpet is that in winter it does afford a bit of insulative value but after that nothing.


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