COLUMBIA — The mold count in Benton Elementary School’s Room 100 is now zero, said Jack Jensen, who oversees elementary education for Columbia Public Schools.
Previously, the presence of mold was such that Renee Mottaz, the classroom’s teacher, was motivated to go before the Columbia School Board on Monday evening. Mottaz said she felt her students were suffering from the amount of mold in the air and showed books from the classroom that were warped by water and mold.
In her classroom, “Aspergillus/Penicillium like types” of mold were found to be at an elevated level compared with an outside air sample taken as a control, according to an independent testing service hired by the district, Environmental Consultants LLC.
The most common symptoms of exposure to those particular kinds of mold are “runny nose, eye irritation, cough, congestion and aggravation of asthma,” the report stated. However, “susceptibility varies with genetic predisposition, age, state of health and concurrent exposures.”
Information from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is not part of the report, says penicillium can cause dermatitis, which is swollen and itchy skin, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which can cause fever, chills, coughing and shortness of breath.
Environmental Consultants’ report noted that leaks in Benton’s roof might be causing the mold growth and that a trash can had been used to collect water dripping from the Room 100 ceiling during storms. The ceiling was also visibly damaged by water.
Construction on a new roof that was supposed to begin in August was started Wednesday. Ninety-five percent of the school’s roof will be replaced, Jensen said, as well as the carpet and ceiling in Room 100.
Because fixing the classroom ceiling will require “destructive investigation,” the report recommends that asbestos and lead-paint testing be conducted.
Benton principal Debby Barksdale said students will be back in that classroom by May 1, as long as the weather holds for construction.
In addition to the levels of mold, the consultants measured the “relative humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide” of the classroom, which were found to be within acceptable ranges. They also tested for carbon monoxide and found none.