Mold Creeps Its Way Into Beacon High School, J.V. Forrestal, and 7 Other Dutchess County Schools - BCSD Is On It

The official end of summer will be here before we know it, and September is proving to be an extremely hot back-to-school month. Forget fall wardrobe outfits and new boots on the first day of school, or even for school pictures which happen a few weeks later. We’re talking 100% humidity, people. And not all of the schools or classrooms in the Beacon City School District have air conditioning.

Two days after the first day of school, Superintendent Matthew Landahl emailed parents in the district about mold creeping into the high school, and the quality of the air. He wrote twice on Friday, September 7, and again on Friday, September 14. Then the Poughkeepsie Journal reported on it, as mold occurrences are happening in other school districts, including Millbrook’s Elm Drive Elementary School (classes are shifting to the middle school; remediation is estimated to take six weeks, according to the article). Wingdale Elementary School in Dover closed for a day, and Hyde Park apparently has a longstanding mold issue at Park Elementary School, according to Nina Schutzman’s Poughkeepsie Journal article.

Communication and action in the Beacon City School District looked like this, with emails from Dr. Landahl on September 7, 2018 (these are partial clips of the correspondences):


“I am writing to let you know about an air quality issue that developed in 6 classrooms in Beacon High School the past three weeks and steps we have taken to remediate it.

“On August 20, the Head Custodian at Beacon High School noticed some mold that developed overnight on desktops and other surfaces in four science rooms in the high school (rooms C127, C133, C135, C141). He immediately notified our Director of Facilities Anthony D’Amato who started working with the BOCES Safety and Risk Coordinator Brian Colandrea. We believe that the mold developed in those four rooms due to the classrooms having many potted plants and aquariums. That combined with the extremely high humidity outside helped to develop conditions for mold growth.

“We hired an outside company, ServPro, to clean the four rooms over Labor Day weekend and we have ordered HEPA air filters and dehumidifiers for those rooms which will be in place at the beginning of next week. We have already received the air quality tests from those four classrooms and the results came back Satisfactory with the recommendation that we install dehumidifiers and HEPA air filters in those rooms.
[Editor’s Note: In the original email, “humidifier” was used in that last sentence, but “dehumidifier” was intended, as confirmed to A Little Beacon Blog by Dr. Landahl.]

On Tuesday, September 4, staff at the high school noticed some mold growing on instrument cases in the closet of the band room (room D163) and underneath the risers of the Chorus room (D157). Our own staff cleaned the instrument cases and furniture immediately. We will have the same company come in to clean those two rooms, and the Band/Chorus practice rooms which are in the same wing on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9.”


As of now, the dehumidifiers and HEPA filters have been put into place. Later that same day on September 7, 2018, parents received another update:


“It came to my attention today that two downstairs classrooms at J.V. Forrestal Elementary had mold develop in window sills and some of the edges of desks one morning a few weeks ago. It was wiped down immediately the day it was found and did not return. Since it was reported today, we inspected all of the downstairs classrooms in Forrestal with people from ServPro this afternoon. We did find small amounts of mold in rooms 6-12 (fourth-grade classrooms, third-grade classrooms, and art). We will have ServPro clean all of the those rooms on Monday, September 10. We will also install HEPA air filters and dehumidifiers in those rooms next week. We will test the air quality after the cleaning and share those results with you when we have them.”


A week later, on September 14, with the 100% humidity unrelenting, Dr. Landahl shared another update with new developments. All of these updates have been posted on the Beacon City School District’s website. These are snippets of his updates:


“I am writing to provide another update on air quality at Beacon High School. Yesterday, we noticed some mold growth on some of the cloth seats in the Beacon High School theater. We had the theater visually inspected today by the industrial hygienist we have been working with from Adaptive Environmental Consulting and he concurred with our assessment.

“We want to take care of this as quickly as we can so we are going to close off this space for the next two [to] three weeks so we can run powerful dehumidifiers for an extended period of time and have cleaners from ServPro clean every seat and treat other surfaces in the theater. The reason we are closing the theater is so that the folks from ServPro can work uninterrupted during this timeframe. The Beacon Players will be able to rehearse in our gyms during this period of time. I apologize for the inconvenience this will cause people.

“We will continue to test for air quality throughout the high school and share those results with you. We will also continue to work with our air chiller in the high school to see what adjustments or fixes need to be done to help mitigate this in the future.”


Capital Plan Improvements In Beacon City Schools

Projects that are part of the Capital Improvement Plan, funded by a public budget vote in November 2017, may aid in the overall fight against mold that threatens any structure (you can read about them here in our article). For example, replacing carpet with tile at Glenham Elementary could help, as mold and dust fester in old carpets. I’m a mold-phobe, and have been known to rip out old carpet from my home in the middle of the night - only to make myself very sick in the process from dust and not wearing a protective air mask. I’m currently chiseling adhesive carpet tile from my sunroom. Block by block.

Rooftop ventilation systems are also slated for replacement at J.V. Forrestal and Sargent Elementary. Roof repairs are slated for Beacon High School and Rombout Middle School.

All eyes are on improvements, as it seems like things are on track to getting better. Until the next mold update!

UPDATE 9/21/2018

The Beacon High School received a “Satisfactory” air quality grade this week, resulting in an update issued from Dr. Landahl on the Beacon City Schools’ website and emailed to parents:


“Adaptive Environmental Consulting tested seven different locations, either hallways or classrooms, throughout Beacon High School on Monday, September 17 and then repeated the testing on Wednesday, September 19. All results came back with low amounts of mold and a Satisfactory air quality rating. ServPro will continue to clean the theater in the high school and we will update you when that work is complete. Again, thanks for your patience and support as we work through this.”