As students and teachers head back to school, they expect—and need—a safe and healthy learning environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as some educational institutions struggle with a hidden enemy: mold. Mold growth in schools is a significant concern with serious consequences for both the health of students and the smooth operation of the school. Let’s shed light on the critical issue of school mold plaguing schools across the United States and how administrators can take action to protect their students and faculty to ensure the overall success of their school year.
The Heavy Toll of School Mold: Why Taking Immediate Action is Critical
School mold is an urgent issue that has a detrimental impact if left unaddressed. Let’s explore some of the consequences of mold in schools to underscore the severity of the problem.
Mold growth in schools disrupts the academic progress of students. When classrooms or entire school buildings are affected, it often leads to delays, closures or relocations, causing significant interruptions in learning. In some locales, the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year had to be put on hold because of mold. The Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS) of Burlington, North Carolina faced a mold problem with over 25 schools affected. Similarly, Talbot Community School in Portland Main found mold in 16 classrooms. However, not all mold is caught at the start of the year. In 2019, Trinity Alps School District, in Weaverville California had to quarantine some of their buildings mid-year due to toxic mold.
Although spread across the nation, all three experienced academic disruption because of mold. This problem can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time, leading to disrupted schedules, missed classes, and the need to make up for lost time, hindering student success.
The health risks associated with mold exposure should not be underestimated. Mold releases spores and mycotoxins into the air, which trigger allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and even lead to severe illnesses in individuals with compromised immune systems. Certain molds may even lead to pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. Moreover, children are at the stage of their life where their immune system is still developing, making them more susceptible to the dangers of mold. Students and staff spending prolonged periods in mold-contaminated environments are at a higher risk of developing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, headaches, and allergic reactions. Trinity Alps school teacher, Alyssa Keyes recalls the health risk she and her son faced:
“I had an upper respiratory infection last year, my son had pneumonia, we had respiratory issues throughout the classroom for three full months. I was the sickest I’d ever been.”
These health risks also have a tumbledown effect of other consequences. When students are sick, they are often out of school for long periods of time, making it difficult to keep up with their education. In the same vein, schools cannot function normally if teachers are out on sick leave due to mold.
The financial consequences of mold in schools can be substantial. Remediation efforts, including mold testing, removal, and repairs, can place a significant burden on the school budget, especially if the mold has had time to spread or if multiple locations are facing the issues. For example, the cost of combatting their mold problem has cost ABSS over $17 million dollars. Additionally, the costs associated with relocation, temporary facilities, and potential lawsuits from affected individuals can further strain the resources of educational institutions.
Take Action Against School Mold
Being proactive against school mold ensures the safety of your students and staff and contributes to an overall successful school year.
Recognizing the severity of the issue, administrators must take proactive steps to protect their schools and the students and staff within. This cannot be stressed enough: it is imperative that school mold is addressed as quickly as possible. The longer the issue goes uncared for, the longer molds have to spread and cause further damage. Thus, the best thing for an administrator to do is to contact reliable environmental service professionals as soon as they become aware of the problem.
Mold testing and inspections conducted by certified experts, such as IRIS Environmental Laboratories, help identify the presence of mold in schools. We stand ready to assist schools in their efforts to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment through accurate testing, quick turnaround, and helpful recommendations on the appropriate remediation measures. Don’t let mold hinder the education of our future generations: schedule an assessment and take action today to safeguard your schools.