'Black mold' closes Bristol elementary
Holston View to be closed for at least the rest of this week
by DAVID McGEE
Bristol Herald Courier

Bristol Tennessee's Holston View Elementary School will be closed for at least the rest of this week, after "black mold" was found in parts of the building, school officials said Monday.

Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum was found on ceiling tiles in the school's "A-pod" and "B-pod," Director of Schools Steve Dixon said. Officials began testing in city schools after the toxic mold was discovered in nearby Sullivan East High School.
School officials took 13 samples from Holston View and all tested positive for some type of mold, with two testing positive for black mold, Dixon said.

"We don't know if we hav a serious problem or not, so we're going to close Holston View for the rest of the week," Dixon said. "A company is coming to inspect the entire building Monday night -- behind the ceiling tile and in the insulation -- and perform an air-quality test to make sure the black mold isn't airborne.

"We're going to try to expedite that test and hopefully the results will be available by Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime, we're going to go ahead and have the building treated with a fogging process that kills mold," he added.

After the fogging process is completed, a second air-quality test and several surface swab tests will be conducted, Dixon said.
"Best-case scenario is we will reopen the school next Monday morning if we don't have a serious problem," Dixon said. "If those tests come back positive, we haven't yet developed any further plans. Hopefully, we'll know more by Wednesday morning."

Performing the fogging process before all tests are back could be more expensive, but could also get the school reopened sooner, Dixon said, adding that it is too early to assess what the entire process will cost.

School officials sent letters home with all 325 of the school's students Monday to inform parents of the closing.


"We want to reassure you that school will not reopen until we are certain that the air quality is safe," Dixon wrote in the letter. "Our first priority is the health and safety of your children and our staff."
School officials will schedule a meeting with parents to discuss the situation, if additional information is needed, Dixon said.
Black mold can cause respiratory reactions in certain individuals who are sensitive to the mold, but most individuals aren't affected by exposure, Dixon said.

"I'm aware of one student who may have had a problem," Dixon said. "But we didn't do this as a response to people expressing concern. This was our concern. We wanted to be proactive."
Built in 1970, Holston View is the newest building in the system, Dixon said. The mold there likely formed because of leaks where the building's circular roofs are connected.

"Mold is everywhere, it just needs moisture to form. With Holston View, we have leaks there all the time where the round roofs join the building and where the round roofs join the flat roofs," Dixon said.
Parent Zina Hines learned about plans to close the school Monday, as she was picking up her daughter.

"I hope they get rid of it and I hope it doesn't take too long. It sounds like the cleanup won't be too bad," Hines said.
Parent Kim Baker, who was also picking up her daughter, said that news of the mold wasn't surprising.

"I thought we might have a problem with leaks when I heard about East because there's not any ventilation here. And when my boys were here the school had a leaking ceiling and problems with mold in the carpet," Baker said, adding that she remembered school officials previously replaced some carpet due to mold.

Jim Arnold the school system's facilities manager, confirmed that Holston View has had a long history of leaks and that in previous years some sections of carpet had been replaced.

Sullivan County officials closed Sullivan East last month and began efforts to eliminate the mold and fix the problems that caused it. The East cleanup is expected to be completed later this month.

In the meantime, classes are being conducted in the skyboxes of Bristol Motor Speedway -- a fact not lost on Holston View parent Laura Beckner.

"I hope if the school is shut down, the children can go to class at the race track. I'm a big race fan and so are the kids so that would be exciting," Beckner said.

Dixon said that school officials began checking for mold after East's problems became known.

"Several weeks ago, we started taking out and replacing any damaged ceiling tiles in the schools, starting at Tennessee High and Holston View. We're going through all of our buildings and any suspect areas are being tested."

No mold was found at Tennessee High, but not all city schools have been tested, Dixon said.

School officials had been randomly selecting "suspicious" ceiling tiles from buildings where staff or parents expressed concern, Dixon said.

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