Alayna Clark, near left, and Melody Harrington move their belongings Friday into their temporary dorm, Surfsite Hall. The two friends from Augusta hope to move into the dorm they were originally assigned, Spring Point Residence Hall, once all the mold is removed from that building.

SOUTH PORTLAND — Soon-to-be freshman roommates Alayna Clark and Melody Harrington were making the best of a difficult situation Friday as they moved into temporary living quarters at Southern Maine Community College.

Alayna Clark, left, and Melody Harrington get a look inside Clark’s room in Surfsite Hall.

The Augusta teenagers are among 320 students who have been displaced at the start of the fall semester because a faulty ventilation system allowed mold to grow throughout Spring Point Residence Hall this summer. Friday and Sunday are official move-in days and classes start Monday.

College officials closed the 10-year-old, four-story building on Sunday and called in a professional mold remediation company to test and clean the entire dorm. ServPro employees have been working around the clock and had completed about 15 percent of the job by Friday afternoon, SMCC spokesman Clarke Canfield said.

While some students will be housed in local hotels for the next three to four weeks, Clark and Harrington will be staying on campus in the 147-bed Surfsite Residence Hall, the seaside college’s only other dorm.

Unfortunately, the 2018 Cony High School graduates were assigned to different rooms in Surfsite, so they won’t be roommates until they move into Spring Point in a few weeks.

“It’s a little sad and it’s a little inconvenient, because we bought some things together that we planned to share,” said Clark, 18, a horticulture major. “But we’re on the same floor, and her room is just down the hall, so it’s not that bad.”

Clark and Harrington, a 17-year-old liberal arts major, moved in Friday morning with help from parents and other family members. Their faces were flushed after repeatedly climbing three flights of stairs in the late August heat, lugging bags of clothing and other items.

Many rooms in Surfsite have three twin beds, including a bunk bed, which means Clark and Harrington each have two roommates to get to know.

Alayna Clark, left, and Melody Harrington unpack some of Harrington’s belongings in her temporary room at Surfsite Residence Hall on Friday.

“All of our roommates are nice,” Clark said, “and we’ll all be living together when we move into Spring Point Hall, so it’s really OK.”

SMCC President Joseph Cassidy has said that students won’t be allowed to return to Spring Point until all mold is remediated, the malfunctioning ventilation system is repaired and independent testing ensures that the building is 100 percent safe.

No cost estimate for the cleanup, alternative student housing and other expenses was available Friday.

Mold stains were found on ceiling tiles, walls and furniture and other places throughout the Spring Point dorm.

Cassidy said the mold was first reported last week and was caused by a faulty heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system that couldn’t keep up with recent hot and humid weather. The resulting condensation allowed mold to form on the building’s ceiling tiles and elsewhere.

Alayna Clark, left, and Melody Harrington unpack some of Harrington’s belongings Friday in her temporary room at Surfsite Hall.

Testing revealed several types of mold inside the building, but only nominal, non-threatening levels of so-called “black mold” were found, he said. Other types of mold that were black in color were detected, but they were not the same type of mold that people associate with “black mold,” he said.

Some students have complained, and a handful even held a protest, because they believe college officials were slow to address the mold problem and haven’t provided enough information to students. Some have raised health concerns, wanting the college to cover laundry and medical costs related to the mold problem.

Cassidy has said student health is a priority and the college is “offering all our support to the affected students to ensure their success at SMCC.”

Others have noted the college’s efforts to welcome students and accommodate their needs under trying circumstances, such as choosing hotels on bus routes for students who don’t have cars.

“(Resident assistants) will be living in the hotels and meeting with students and organizing events to make them feel as welcome as possible,” Canfield said. “Monday classes start and hopefully college life resumes as usual. We’re trying to ensure that the start of school is as normal as possible for everyone.”

Nearly 6,000 students are expected to begin classes Monday on the campus overlooking Casco Bay.

Jennifer Dube takes a photo her daughter, Melody Harrington, second from left, and Melody’s friend Alayna Clark as they move into their temporary dorm Friday. With them are Clark’s parents, Alden and Sarah Sachs, second and third from right.

Indoor exposure to mold has been linked to upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing, and a stuffy nose, and red or itchy eyes or skin in healthy people, and can exacerbate symptoms in people with asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions, such as fever and shortness of breath.

Mold can be removed from hard surfaces by cleaning with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution. Absorbent or porous materials like ceiling tiles, drywall and carpet usually have to be removed and thrown away, the CDC says.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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