WOODBRIDGE – The mold and asbestos problems at the Indiana Avenue Elementary School No. 18 in the Iselin section have continued into the 2018-19 school year with work recently done by a mold remediation company to clean multiple classrooms and the all-purpose room.
Just last weekend the district sent parents an email, indicating all classes would be returning to their rooms Oct. 15, and to keep rooms at acceptable levels the district would be ventilating, by keeping classroom doors open with the ventilators on, keeping dehumidifiers on and emptying them when full, and continuing to clean rooms.
Parents were urged to report any issues, including suspected mold or moisture in accordance with district procedures.
Earlier this month, Woodbridge Superintendent of Schools Robert Zega told parents in an Oct. 8 email that based on the district’s consultant report, students and staff would be permitted to return to rooms 17 -31 which also had been equipped with new air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
This comes after Zega notified parents that mold was found behind paper on the bulletin boards in those same classrooms, resulting in students being relocated to other rooms within the school.
The continuing issues has added to parents frustration over the apparent lack of a remediation plan that will fully address and resolve all their concerns so that the 600 students have a safe and healthy place to learn.
“Parents are frustrated. They shut down the school and had the summer to fix everything,” said Atulya Mahajan, a parent with two sons in the school, adding part of the school was shut down two weeks ago, and students were moved to the media room. “Logistically it’s a nightmare.”
Mahajan said a lot of parents, many of whom are first generation immigrants, don’t know what to do.
“Who knows what the cause is,” he said.
He said a lot of parents are expected to turn out for the Woodbridge Board of Education meeting, 6 p.m. Thursday at Avenel Middle School, 85 Woodbine Ave., in the Avenel section.
“Over the last couple of months at School #18, we have been cleaning a couple of surfaces which contained mold and addressing associated indoor air issues, ” Zega said in an email statement Wednesday.
“The school has remained open throughout this process because our environmental experts determined that the air quality was not compromised and remained safe for our students and staff members. At different points throughout the cleaning process, some classrooms had to be moved around the building. However, all students are now back in their original classroom locations. We continue to work with our environmental experts to monitor the air quality in the school in an effort to continue to ensure that the school remains safe for our students and staff members,” Zega said in the statement.
One parent, frustrated by the mold problem, remediation, followed by more mold in other locations without the problem getting solved, has removed their child from the school and is instead offering home instruction, while also looking at discussing options with a lawyer.
The parent, who asked in an email that their name not be used, said the root cause of the problem has not been identified or remediated.
In the email, that same parent, said the mold was so extensive the janitor’s union refused to allow them to work in the lower part of the school.
“This goes beyond the mold issue. There has been so much lost instructional time to the issues in the building. Fourteen classes were closed last week and all of those students were housed in the all purpose room and media center. The teachers are doing their best, but that is certainly not a situation or environment conducive to learning,” the parent said.
Last February mold and asbestos issues were discovered in the school when a leak was found in the roof.
In March, the school, built in 1955, was closed for a week to address the problem. Through the next month the school was closed off and on, and Iselin Middle School was used to offer split session classes for students from both schools.
The district pledged to continue to address the mold and asbestos issues during the summer when the school was closed.
In an email to parents at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Zega said a great deal of work was completed over the summer, including replacing ceilings in classrooms, 7, 9, and 15 as well as the ceiling from the main entrance to the nurse’s office, ceiling tiles were stabilized throughout the building, the floor was replaced in room 30, new heating units installed in the all purpose room, the playground repaved the sidewalk repaired and soffits repaired in a classroom, with plans to waterproof the new addition of the building and the courtyard.
But his email also noted that the week before students were to return to class, mold growth was found in rooms in the 4th and 5th grade hallway.
“Any surfaces that had mold were either cleaned or discarded. Cabinets in rooms were completely removed and some desks were also replaced. Our crews were at the school Saturday and will continue to work to make sure the building is clean and safe. We believe the mold was due to a combination of the AC units being turned off and the areas not being cleaned,” Zega said in the email sent the day before school opened.
Source: My Central Jersey