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District Failed to Disclose Mold Testing Results Before Bond Referendum

greeancresoldThe question about mold at Greenacres School has resurfaced again. At the May 21 meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Education, Greenacres Dad Mitch Kahn inquired about the results of follow-up mold testing that was done at the Greenacres Elementary in January 2018. The re-testing was done after mold was found in the school in October 2017 but the results were never shared with the community. The report was dated January 22, 2018 just two weeks before a community vote on a bond referendum that included plans to renovate Greenacres School, but the testing results were not made available to voters.

Kahn said, “I don’t understand why we haven’t been told the results of those tests. Clearly we had to go through a FOIL to get the results of previous tests and we don’t want to have to go through that process every time a test is done. We have an upcoming large renovation and its supposed to have third party testing and we don’t want to have to FOIL the results.”

He continued, “I think the administration has a communications problem. You know these are big issues. You know that parents care. If there are no issues then there should be no problem telling people where we can get the results of these tests…. If we do these tests and we don’t tell anyone the results, does it matter that we do the tests? There are a lot of parents that are worried but are too intimidated to come up here to speak.”

Just hours before the June 11, 2018 meeting of the Board of Education, which was five months after the January environmental report was received, those results were made public. They showed that there was again mold at four of the previous sites at Greenacres School – not at the same levels as previously reported – but present enough to require another disinfection process. Elevated readings were found in Classrooms 2B and 9, in the teacher’s lounge and in the custodial area.

On Monday night, in a discussion of the testing, Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey steered away from discussing the results or steps to eliminate the mold and instead focused on future reporting protocols. He said, “The district failed to follow up on IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) testing when we said that we would. This will be a regular agenda item in January and June. All reports will be posted on the website as soon as they are completed. The website has been updated. We included money for environment testing in next year’s budget and John Trenholm will arrange the schedule.”

However, reporting the problem does not solve it. Given that the school is about to undergo a $35 million renovation, Mattey might have addressed how the architects and engineers proposed to get at the source of the mold to stop these re-occurences. The building is known to be on a high water table and has had issues with water infiltration. In November, areas of the building were found to be very humid. Due to the expense, the existing areas of the building will not be air conditioned, which would have lowered the humidity and discouraged the growth of mold.

We followed up with Mattey and posed the following questions in an email on Tuesday June 12, 2018.

Stuart: I was surprised to see mold testing results from January 2018 issued in June, especially in light of a facilities bond vote in February. Information like this might have affected voters' choice.

Here are my questions:

Why were the results held until now?

Elevated readings were found in rooms 2B and 9 and in the teachers’ lounge. The teacher’s lounge is on the opposite side of the building from where the new dehumidifiers will be located. I believe that Room 9 is also above a dirt crawl space.

As you know, three quarters of the building sits on a dirt foundation on a very wet site. Has the district done any testing of the dirt crawl spaces? How can we assess the mold levels there? What are the plans for remediating any mold that may be coming up from this dirt foundation? I assume that BBS has submitted a plan – can that be shared with the public? Is there someone for me to contact at BBS to discuss this issue?

Mold was found in November 2017 and then reappeared in January 2018. Given that the mold appears to be endemic, are we all still comfortable with a renovation in the case that we are unable to eradicate the mold in the building?

Here is Mattey’s response:

Dear Joanne:

Unfortunately, the District failed to circle back to the community regarding the January test results. This was certainly an oversight during an extremely busy period that included budget preparation and the enormous amounts of work prior to the February Bond Referendum. We are thankful to the Scarsdale resident who reminded us at the last Board meeting that the report had not been circulated as intended.

As a result of this experience, the District will now include Environmental Testing Updates twice per year (January and June) to help assure that both the Board and the community are kept abreast of testing results and activities.

In addition, all reports and protocols will now be posted on the website as soon as they have been completed. These can be found in the Facilities & Grounds section, under District Information. (

For your information the Indoor Air Quality Protocol states the following:

All the classrooms in the High School and the Middle School will be tested for indoor air quality (IAQ) during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. All elementary school classrooms will be tested for IAQ during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The District will re-test all classroom areas every 3 years for IAQ issues. The District will enlist the following protocols in the event of any IAQ Issues.

-All building indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns are to be reported to the facilities department.
-Upon receipt of an IAQ concern, a report will be opened for the area in question and a thorough inspection of the area will be performed by the facilities staff within 1 day of receiving notice.
-The room inspection will follow EPA guidelines for possible causes for poor IAQ ( i.e nuisance dust, water infiltration, poor ventilation, poor disinfecting, visible signs of mold, etc.)
-If none of the EPA criteria are met for poor IAQ the District will look for possible outside sources. If nothing is found the District will completely ventilate the room and issue a report to close the investigation. If any of the EPA criteria are met for poor IAQ, a hygienist will be contacted to perform further air quality testing, ie MOLD Score.
-IAQ test of areas that have a MOLD Score of 150 and lower require our normal cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
- IAQ test of areas that result in a MOLD Score above 150 and below 250 will receive a full additional cleaning and disinfecting of all hard surfaces and a thorough floor cleaning.
-All areas that have a MOLD Score above 250 will be completely emptied and all items and surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected including but not limited to; hard surfaces, furniture, floors, walls, windows blinds, lights, etc. Re-testing of these areas in 6-8 weeks after cleaning to ensure that the levels have been reduced.
-All reports including results will be posted on the District’s website

* Scores greater than 150 mean a moderate probability that the spores originated from inside the building. Scores above 250 mean a high probability that the spores originated from inside the building.

It should be noted that molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. They are found in schools, homes, hospitals, industry etc. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees. It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will always be found floating through the air and in-house/school dust.

Greenacres IAQ Specifically

In November, testing showed six areas with mold scores of above 150, but below 250.

Retesting in December after cleaning protocols were followed showed levels below 150.

Follow-up testing in January showed four areas with moderate scores just above 150 but below 250 (in fact, below 175 in all areas). Cleaning protocols were again followed.

As you recall we have included funding in the budget for IAQ studies at each of our buildings over the course of the next two school years, beginning with the Middle School and High School this upcoming year.

All elementary buildings will be completed the year after that (2019-20).

These protocols will assure that we can respond in a timely and appropriate manner in the event that levels return a moderate or high probability moldscore.

Stuart P.G. Mattey
Assistant Superintendent for Business
Scarsdale Public Schools
2 Brewster Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
(914) 721-2422

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