Lehigh Valley

Two Bethlehem schools will be closed Monday

Longer summer vacation for 1,650 kids

Mold forces 2 Bethlehem schools to stay closed

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Farmersville Elementary School and East Hills Middle School in the Bethlehem Area School District did not open for the start of the new school year Monday because of cleaning and remediation of mold in classrooms of both schools.

That means summer vacation will last at least one day longer for children scheduled to attend to those schools Monday.

Both schools may remain closed beyond Monday. The decision to open either school on Tuesday will be made Monday, based on air quality in classrooms.

Joseph Roy, the district's superintendent, said 1,100 students will attend East Hills and 550 will attend Farmersville.

The mold was just discovered last week in the middle school, said the superintendent, and only on Wednesday in the elementary school.

Mold can form in just 48 hours, said Roy, adding that it is produced by high humidity, adding adjustments are being made to the air conditioning systems in both schools to reduce humidity.

Mold was found primarily in classrooms, but not in every classroom, and it was not covering walls, but usually only in isolated areas in classrooms, such as on a table top, Roy said.

Even if mold only is seen in a couple of areas, that entire classroom is cleaned from floor to ceiling, and every item in it also is cleaned, Roy said.

"Following room-by-room inspections conducted by an independent certified industrial hygienist, the district's facilities department and Sargent Enterprises Inc., are continuing their targeted cleaning and remediation of mold at both schools," explained district officials in a news release.

While removal of the mold is nearing completion in East Hills, which has 28 classrooms, that work just started Thursday night in Farmersville, which has about a dozen classrooms.

By  early Friday evening, only a few classrooms still had to be cleaned in East Hills.

The superintendent said scrubbers will be run over the weekend to remove any mold spores still in the air inside East Hills, then air quality testing will be done Monday before children are allowed into the classrooms.

"The Bethlehem Area School District is committed to the safety and well being of its
students and staff," said school district officials in their news release.

"We will continue to dedicate the necessary time and resources to
ensuring that the cleaning, remediation, and air quality testing of Farmersville
Elementary School and East Hills Middle School are done to the highest standards."

Depending on results of ongoing air testing, visual inspections, and recommendations by the hygienist, it may be necessary for one or both of the schools to remain closed on additional days beyond Monday.

Another possibility is that schools will open, except for a few classrooms, and that   students will be relocated to other classrooms in the building.

Families who have children enrolled in Farmersville Elementary's day care may transport them to Miller Heights Elementary School on days when Farmersville  is closed.  There may be additional costs.

A Frequently Asked Questions document about the mold remediation will be posted on the school district's home page this weekend.

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