FARMINGDALE — Black mold has been found in one of two rooms closed off in May at Hall-Dale Middle School, and now district officials are taking steps to remove it.

Regional School Unit 2 Superintendent Bill Zima said Thursday that Mark Tinkham, the school principal, sent a letter to parents of middle school students.

In it, he said the industrial hygienist who peformed testing in the rooms found nothing of concern in the air but found some black mold in a wall cavity behind a bookcase in Room 210.

“Although it was not found in the airstream and was concealed in a wall under a window, it is still a zero tolerant type of mold. So, we will rectify the situation as soon as possible. Even though the air quality tests indicate there is not a current state of risk and mold was not found in the second room, we will continue to to keep both rooms closed.”

Zima said the good news is that the school year is nearly at its end. During the summer break, the wall will be opened up, the mold will be mitigated and the wall will be repaired before students return in the fall.

But middle school teachers Cynthia Raymond and Amelia Clukey say they remain concerned about the conditions where they teach and where their students learn.

In May, two classrooms were closed at Hall-Dale Middle School after Raymond and Clukey, who were based in the adjoining classrooms, said they developed rashes and reported feeling uncomfortable. On that day, the temperature was unseasonably hot.

They had documented with photos the appearance of rashes they say affected them during school hours. Clukey said hers cleared up within an hour or so of leaving school. But Raymond, who said she has been getting hives on her face, arm and leg since early this year, said her condition took longer to clear. She has been taking two kinds of antihistamines since February.

In May, Zima said the classrooms would remain closed until an environmental consultant could investigate. He also said at the time, before Safe Environmental Solutions had conducted its tests, that school district officials said they detected no mold or other apparent problems that could have caused the teachers’ discomfort in the ceiling, air filtration vents and throughout the classrooms.

At a meeting of the RSU 2 Facilities and Food Service Committee on Thursday, both Raymond and Clukey told Zima and the board members present that they have been frustrated and angry about how the situation was handled. They said they had complained about conditions in the rooms long before their closure, including windows that they couldn’t open.

“My greatest concern is for the students with pre-existing conditions,” Raymond said. “They have weakened immune systems, so exposure to mold is not a good thing.”

Mold occurs naturally, can be found everywhere and is a necessary part of our environment, according to the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council.

There are no federal health standards for mold, but the state uses indoor air quality standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers as a guide for air quality.

The standards look at temperature, relative humidity and a host of other factors to determine whether the potential for mold exists. There are no state Department of Education standards for mold in classrooms, and the education department is not responsible for school air quality safety.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states exposure to mold may cause a variety of health effects, or none. People sensitive to molds can experience nasal stuffiness, coughing or wheezing, and throat irritation. The state air quality agency said until standards regarding hazardous mold levels are set, it recommends a preventive approach, including keeping private homes or buildings free of excess moisture.

For her own part, Raymond said she filed a claim with Maine School Management Association for payment for her medical bills and prescriptions, but it was denied even before the report was issued Monday. She said she is appealing that decision.

“We’re not letting this go,” Clukey said.

Zima declined comment on that issue. “I want to make sure the people who work at RSU 2 are well taken care of and we create the buildings and structures and the learning environments that support them,” he said.

He said when things come to his attention, he takes care of them. “I try to get an understanding of what’s going on and I try to be supportive of people.”

“What our industrial hygienist has told us is that the rooms are fine sealed off. Nobody’s in them,” he said. “When he has time, which I believe is next week, he will come in a put up a barrier and remove the damage was and get a better idea (of what’s there). We have no idea how expansive it is. Once we have that, we’ll fix the leak in the window and put up new drywall and have them come in and test the rooms again.”

Earlier this year, Manchester Elementary School was inspected by consultants after mold was discovered in the basement. Teachers and students had complained of headaches and other symptoms.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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