Lawrence School District spends nearly $200,000 to battle mold

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The heat and humidity that many people endured during the summer also caused a problem in the basement of the Broadway Campus building that houses both the middle school and Lawrence Elementary School.

“Very high humidity allows for mold to grow and mold was found in the musical instruments and the closed cases,” School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said at the Oct. 5 Board of Education meeting.

The mold was found at the beginning of the school year. District officials had the room with the instruments tested on Sept. 11 by Enviroscience, a Ronkonkoma-based company that specializes in indoor air quality, subsurface investigations, environmental remediation, and industrial hygiene. Eight days later rooms on the main floor and basement were also tested, Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Feder stated in a Sept. 27 letter to parents. The air quality testing cost $1,095.

“On September 24, the report stated that these rooms were fund to be ‘within acceptable limits, when compared to outside ambient concentrations and no further corrective action is recommended,’ with one exception of room 139b,” Feder wrote. Room 139b was found to have “slightly elevated concentration likely due to condensation.” Feder said the room was cleaned and the air quality was to be retested. He told the Herald that random testing is still being done.

Roughly $82,000 was paid to Belfor Long Island LLC, also in Ronkonkoma, for the mold remediation and cleaning. To replace the instruments damaged by the mold, nearly $84,000 was spent with Advantage Music in Lake Ronkonkoma.

“This really has been a challenge,” Pedersen said, “these facilities are precious to us as they house our students and us.” She said the district is taking a page from law enforcement and will use the phrase “if you see something, say something,” about any problems in a school building. “Snap a photo and send it to the building head,” Pedersen said. Feder added that “some notifications” have been made that the district is “constantly evaluating the procedures” to speed up response to issues or concerns about the school buildings.

Pedersen also noted that board approved the $450,00 for the security upgrades at the Broadway campus and the Primary School. Security improvements were done at the high school last school year.

Lori Skonberg, president of the Lawrence Teachers Association, spoke at the Oct. 5 meeting and addressed the mold issue. “Moving forward, all classrooms that are vulnerable to high humidity such as the (Lawrence) Primary School (at the Number Two School) basement should have the same professional remediation that is being implemented at the Broadway Campus,” she said.

Skonberg, whose roughly 280-member LTA, has gone without a new contract for eight years, also noted several other issues, ranging from the kindergartners who were moved to the Primary School having difficulty using the toilets and to many the self-contained special education classrooms remain without the state-mandated teacher aides.

“I would like to remind you that one of the district’s goals is empathy, unfortunately the issues I have highlighted this evening demonstrate your lack of empathy for our students,” she said to the administrators and school board.