HVAC Breaks Spread Mold, Leaks In Schools

Teachers cleared mold from their classroom furniture to get ready for the first day of school in New Haven Monday, as a new wave of HVAC problems surround the system.

The school system’s facilities team worked all weekend by responding to “system failures,” according to an internal memo from Chief Operating Officer Thomas Lamb, who described HVAC systems in several schools as “obsolete to the point where they are difficult to maintain.”

The problems were particularly acute at the Mauro Sheridan School, where teachers were reportedly tackling mold themselves so their students could breathe safely.

But on Monday, according to Ed’s board, all schools did open as planned.

School board member Darnell Goldson called it “a particularly dangerous time to have these issues, especially with the fear fueled by COVID. If anything else, we should have been prepared to deal with the circulation problems, we have hundreds of millions of additional funding. Every meeting we hire highly paid administrators, but it seems some issues are getting worse. I shudder at the thought of how learning is affected.”

Following is the full text of Lamb’s email detailing the issues. Click here, here, here and here for past independent stories of ongoing HVAC problems in public schools.

From: Lam, Thomas
Sent: Sunday, August 29, 2021 11:05 PM

Subject: Re: Mold

dr. tracy,

The neighborhood has had some issues with surface mold as we got into the humid air of the summer months and also struggled with HVAC related issues. After reviewing the work order system over the past few weeks and insisting on walk-through inspections with the facilities team, principals, and assistant superintendents, I have found that in the past it was common practice to have all HVAC systems run overnight and weekend. place setbacks as part of our energy management program. This practice, along with several HVAC issues and several hot and humid days, caused the formation of surface mold in many schools. I have worked with the HVAC control team to adjust the fallback schedules to adjust the ventilation of the school to prevent this in the future and to ensure that all ventilation systems are working properly. Over the past few weeks, our HVAC contractors have repaired or replaced numerous exhaust fans that were malfunctioning. Documentation is attached. These exhaust fans play a crucial role in the ventilation of our schools. This summer there have been several heat waves with high humidity and our buildings have been occupied more than usual. The school district’s HVAC systems have been taxed more than usual this summer, which is why we’ve seen a significant number of system failures. I work with the facilities team to evaluate and make recommendations for HVAC system replacement for systems at critical risk of complete system failure. We are currently addressing issues as they arise. The HVAC systems in several district schools are aging to the point where they are difficult to maintain.

Moist air that is not circulated will present as surface mold, especially in storage bins, cabinets, cubes and other confined spaces, creating surface mold. This is the most common problem in some schools. The mold reported by work order or discovered by building administrators will be cleaned or rectified according to the established guidelines of the State Department of Public Health which can be found at https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Environmental-Health/Environmental-and- Occupational Health Assessment/Mold. The fungus that is discovered and is less than 12 square feet in size is cleaned using district disinfection protocols and must be cleaned by prison staff. The client’s claim that every building in the neighborhood has mold is simply not true. Prison staff should not be handing out cleaning products to teachers. If the custodian requires assistance, requests should be made to the Facilities team for additional staff to assist.

Facilities were notified by the building manager on Friday morning, 8/27/2021 that there was mold in some of Mauro Sheridan’s rooms. The building manager and his employees immediately cleaned and disinfected the cubes, pre-k rooms, music room and the stairwell, and the mold was everywhere. The staff reported that by the end of the day on 7/27/2021, they had successfully cleaned all affected areas with a disinfectant. At Fair Haven there was a ceiling leak in room 233 facilities received a work order on Monday 8/22/2021. Facilities went to Fair Haven on Wednesday 24/8/2021 and engaged a contractor to remove the ceiling to investigate the cause of the leak. While in Fair Haven on Wednesday 8/24/2021 there was another room that also had a leak and the contractor has opened the wall to determine the cause of that leak. The photos below with the signage relate to the remediation of this space. Then the facilities were notified of some mold in the IT room downstairs. A professional company was contacted to get in and sanitize the rooms, which they did on Friday 8/27/2021 and Saturday 8/8/2021. It was determined that both leaks were caused by HVAC units and they are both scheduled to be repaired on Monday 8/30/2021. The spaces where walls or ceilings are open must be treated and dried out completely before they can be closed.

Going forward, a weekly HVAC/IAQ report for the district will be provided for review.

Thank you,

Thomas Lambo

Managing Director

Public Schools in New Haven

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