Wednesday, September 18, 2019


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Mold Issues Close Upper Perk High School
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            During gym class last week, Tristan Malette noticed a faint musty smell. The Upper Perkiomen High School freshman identified the odor as mildew.

            "When I stood still I could really smell it," Malette said. "The gymnasium did not smell right."

            Despite the musty smell, Malette said his Sept. 4 gym class, which included fitness tests and dodge ball, was completed without interruption. Two days later, a large chalk board directed the students in the class to the audion, according to the ninth grader. The following day, the Pennsburg resident said he noticed "large-enough-to-hug dehumidifiers" in four classrooms from the hallway.

            Subsequently, district administrators closed the school to complete the proper cleanup of mold and make equipment repairs.  In addition to cleaning the affected rooms and the HVAC system, ductwork is being cleaned and replaced to make the heating and cooling system more efficient.

            Statements from the district seek to assure the community that the high school environment will be safe for students and staff.

             "Please know that we are taking these moisture and mold issues very seriously, and that the health and well-being of our students and staff is a top priority," Superintendent Alexis McGloin wrote in a Sept. 8 message on the district's website addressed to all district families and staff. She also thanked everyone for their patience as administrators work to make changes to the high school infrastructure to address these recent developments.

            According to Nicole Gum, a communication specialist for the Upper Perkiomen School District, crews from 1Source and BELFOUR, two "nationally- and globally-renown, well-established companies" are treating those mold and moisture problems which mostly impacted classrooms in the 100 and 200 wings, as well as the guidance and the main office.

            "As you can imagine, making these changes to the HVAC system and conducting this level of cleaning is no small task, and therefore we have no choice but to close the building" for a week, wrote McGloin in the website message. "We want to ensure that this problem is addressed properly, and we are not looking to cut corners on this important issue, so a building closure is unavoidable."

            On Wednesday afternoon, the superintendent provided an update on the cleanup. In a message to the Upper Perkiomen Community, McGloin stated that the cleaning of affected areas and work on the HVAC system are progressing well, and that the district remains on track to reopen the building to students and staff for instruction on Monday.

            However, the work to either replace or encapsulate and remove dust and debris from the ductwork in the oldest HVAC system, in order to increase the system's efficiency, will need to continue during after school hours for the next few weeks, according to the superintendent.        When school re-opens, the HVAC systems throughout the building will be completely shut down as work continues. Students and staff should dress accordingly over the coming weeks, the letter states. Additionally, the building will be closed during after school hours for the next few weeks.

            "The good news on that front is that we believe the athletic area (gymnasium, locker rooms, etc.) will be available for use after hours starting next week," McGloin wrote.

            In August, district officials had noticed some areas of surface mold growth in parts of the high school, which opened in 1968, and brought in 1Source and BELFOUR to address the mold and moisture problems. The areas of surface mold were cleaned, the air was scrubbed, air filters were proactively replaced, and dehumidifiers were brought in, according to the information provided by Gum.

            "We felt confident that the issues were resolved at the time," her message states. "Since then, the hot, humid and wet conditions that led to that mold growth have persisted, and some new problems have popped up, including some mold growth in our gymnasium."

            "As it became clear that the moisture issues were larger than we and the experts initially thought, we felt it was important to look deeper into these recent developments and address the root of the problem," the message states. "That is what led us to the decision to close the school for a thorough cleaning of affected areas and to make adjustments to our oldest HVAC system to increase its efficiency."

            District officials did not know how much the cleanup would cost. However, they are hopeful the insurance will cover at least part of the cost, according to the response.      

            The work has prevented the school from hosting a multitude of events this week. Friday's non-league football game has been shifted to Fleetwood at 7 p.m. Activities that were scheduled for Friday night's game, including the 2nd Annual Project Live Memorial and Youth Football Night, will be rescheduled for a home game later in the season, according to the email message. The Valley Soccer games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and Upper Perk Indian Youth Football game scheduled for Sunday at the high school will be moved to Upper Perkiomen Middle School.

            Some other future events may need to be adjusted, but the UPHS Open House scheduled for Wednesday, September 19 at 6:30 p.m. will continue as planned, according to the superintendent.

            Administrators have identified four make-up day for the high school: Nov. 6 (Election Day), Nov. 19-20 originally-scheduled parent-teacher conferences, Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).  The fifth missed day will not need to be made up due to an extra day built into our school calendar, according to the superintendent's message posted on the website.





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