MONROE — Members of the Monroe Board of Education voted 8-1 Monday to authorize up to $35,000 to address a mold problem in the district high school.
The non-toxic aspergillus was found on the surfaces of assorted areas in the Performing Arts Center and in the old study hall and vents in the east part of the building upon first inspection, District Administrator Rick Waski said at the board meeting. It was subsequently removed from furniture and upholstery.
Now the district may hire a company to perform a professional remediation to clean a 4-foot tunnel which spans most of the north side of the building from the boiler room. The tunnel, one of two, was originally used to carry steam from the boiler room.
Waski said the tunnels have had issues with water in the past. The district has been looking for a professional company to power wash the structure before applying a fungicidal treatment with hopes of addressing the issue.
School board member Les Bieneman said he was willing to give the cleaning plan “a one-time shot” since the tunnels likely have not been cleaned in decades. Members of the board expressed uncertainty over how to proceed because it was unclear how long the treatment would last and if they would need to do the same work in upcoming years, which Bieneman said gave him concerns.
District Business Administrator Ron Olson said the problem began after heavy rainfall and high temperatures throughout August, mixed with a struggling HVAC system, led to the permeation of mold. Part of the issue was the erosion of splash pads near the building which allowed water to permeate the structure. It was rectified when the district installed extensions to the building’s downspouts.
However, the building continues to have foundation and moisture problems.
“This isn’t going to remedy all of the issues with that building,” Olson said.
Waski said one of the problem areas identified by the company which evaluated each building for the upcoming referendum, CG Schmitt, was a lack of up-to-date air conditioning in the Monroe High School.
Board President Dan Bartholf asked whether mold would enter the main building if no tunnel cleaning was done. Director of Buildings and Grounds Richard Zentner said the tunnel has an access panel into one of the classrooms, which would allow for it to spread within the building.
Waski said if the district did not address the issue, the tunnels may likely dry out, though the lack of airflow at each end means the problem will likely persist. Waski said the district has plans to ask any remediation company it may hire how to create more airflow within the space.
School officials did not have proposals and estimates to present during the meeting because they have not been able to meet with the three companies they currently have scheduled to assess the issue. Waski said with the high incidence of flooding within the state, a small project has lower priority.
The use of up to $35,000 from the long-term maintenance fund was approved by voice vote via the nine members of the board. Board member Cheryl McGuire voted against the motion.