Thursday, March 27, 2014

Schools have to learn to control air quality problems

Central Alberta school reopens after air quality concerns over mould

Mold, chemicals and particles may affect
the health of students, teachers and staff.
An elementary school in west-central Alberta has reopened after it was shut down due to air quality concerns.

Lochearn School in Rocky Mountain House was shut down after high levels of airborne mould were initially detected in at least three of the classrooms from tests by Alberta Infrastructure taken on Jan. 31.

Results from a second round of tests on March 7 were released Thursday afternoon and confirmed the recent cleaning and repairs were effective and all air standards meet Health Canada guidelines.

Health Canada guidelines state that acceptable readings of airborne mould can be up to a maximum total of 150 colony forming units per cubic metre of air.

From the Jan. 31 test, some classrooms were showing results of 643 and 468 units, but the test taken last week found no classrooms over 75.

Danielle Spencer, the school's principal, said in a press release that health and safety of students and staff are her Number 1 priority.

The division expected good results after remediation work was conducted at the school on Feb. 20 and 21, said Gordon Majeran, the associate superintendent of corporate services with the Wild Rose School Division.

The recommendations in the first report from Alberta Infrastructure involved the replacing of all water stained ceiling tiles, a disinfection and cleaning of all identified areas with mould and targeted mould remediation -- meaning encapsulation -- on some of the bulkheads overhead at the school entrance, Majeran said.

"We will continue with testing to monitor the air quality and we will also be developing a roof repair plan,'' Majeran said.

Structural problems were pointed out in the school early in the new year when the onset of warmer weather combined with the heavy snow load on the roof began to cause leaks, especially in the north wing.

Concerned about mould, the division followed up with an air quality test, Majeran said.

The first results came back on Feb. 12 but staff were only told the results on Wednesday evening, which sparked the decision to close Lochearn on Thursday.

"They were concerned ... and not comfortable now that they knew the levels ... They didn't want the students there so as a precautionary measure we decided it may be best to close the school until the new results came in,'' Majeran said.

There was "no particular reason'' staff weren't told about the exact levels of mould found in the school, he added.

"They knew there was work being done but they didn't have the results... We didn't share them with them. ... At the time we decided it was better to concentrate on cleaning it up.''

Lochearn School serves students from kindergarten to Grade 5. The building is well over 30 years old, Majeran said, and the roof has been the source of numerous problems over the years.

Source: OHS Canada

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