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.