Waynesville school still closed due to mold, but superintendent more hopeful

Air quality tests to determine when school starts

Students at Waynesville Junior/Senior High School are still waiting to start the school year as an ongoing mold issue has caused delays. But Superintendent Pat Dubbs expressed some optimism Tuesday.

“We’re still cleaning,” Dubbs said. “We received better reports in the second round (of air quality) testing. I hope to see more improvement on the third round of testing.”

Dubbs said he hopes to make a decision Wednesday on whether to move forward with in-person instruction or go to remote learning.

“I’m feeling better on going to face-to-face than I did 48 hours ago.”

Waynesville Elementary students in preschool through fifth-grade began classes as scheduled Aug. 16, as they are in a separate building. Sixth-grade students, in a brand-new wing, were scheduled to start Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Meanwhile, students in grades 7-12 are still waiting. Classes were supposed to start Aug. 16, then were delayed to Aug. 23, and are now waiting on the air quality testing.

Last week, Dubbs said surface mold was discovered in some classrooms in the high school wing. The district conducted an inspection of all spaces in the junior/senior high, and determined that in the interest of the health and safety of students and staff, they needed to close the Junior/Senior High building until corrective actions had been taken.

Dubbs said there was a failure in the HVAC controls in the high school, causing increased humidity levels. The material in the ceiling tiles absorbed the moisture, creating the mold.

District officials said on Sunday, “Upon walking and inspecting the condition of the building today, there is still work to be done and progress to be made before the Junior/Senior High is up to standard. With student and staff safety as our top priority, we will not be starting school on Tuesday.”

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District officials said more time is needed to complete work on the building and to receive assurances through air quality samples to safely determine a date that classes can begin.

“We will keep you posted as to when school will begin and will update you with information as we continue to monitor the building daily,” district officials said.

The sixth grade is in a brand-new wing not affected by the mold, but school officials said they had to divert staff away from setting up those classrooms last week to assist with mold mitigation at the junior/senior high.

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District officials said areas of the building were isolated by erecting temporary plastic walls and establishing negative air pressures to ensure contaminants do not migrate to other areas. All ceiling tiles have been removed throughout the entire high school and replacements were to be installed by the end of the day Sunday. All floors, contents, and walls were being thoroughly cleaned by that time as well.

District officials said they are taking air and surface samplings to confirm mold remediation success and to ensure the well-being of everyone going forward. When all the reports are received, they will be released to the public and posted to the district website.

The building remains closed so the workers can continue to get the tiles replaced, building cleaned, and mitigation completed.

Students in grades 7-12 will be updated as the district receives more information.

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