Mold, mildew growing at Smithville High School, air quality test finds

Mold and mildew have been found on ceilings and vents at Smithville High School, according to a presentation by the district’s maintenance director at the school board meeting Monday.

The Texas Association of School Boards, a national educational association that serves and represents school boards in the state, recently conducted an air quality assessment of Smithville High School and found “mold marks on the exterior” of the building.

Mold grew on the ceiling tiles and vents of room 108, above the teacher’s desk and storage closet.

Zack Harris, the district director of maintenance, explained to the school board that the department is currently cleaning the campus’ eight energy recovery fans, which are filters that bring fresh air into the building and exhaust warm air. Five had been cleaned as of Monday.

Harris said he’s also working with an HVAC consultant for airflow engineers to clean out the high school’s ductwork. The school replaces HVAC filters monthly, Harris said, and annually cleans the fan filters for energy recovery.

All thermostats on campus have been readjusted to prevent further mold build-up, Harris said.

“We noticed some of the time the thermostats were a bit off, and we also changed the occupied and unoccupied time that was installed when the building was being designed,” he said.

When the temperature in the classrooms gets too low, condensation increases and causes stains on the ceiling tiles. Keeping humidity in check and facilitating proper airflow is important, but Harris’s biggest concern is that the high school main hallway doesn’t have air conditioning.

“400 feet long, 7,500 square feet, and there’s no HVAC,” he said across the hallway.

Each class has its own air conditioning unit. So Harris suspects classrooms are turning down their thermostats to make up for the lack of air conditioning in the hallway.

He said the maintenance department has reached out to air-conditioning contractors to seek opinions and recommendations. The department is also working with experts to determine whether the solution could be to clean, replace or add more energy recovery fans on the campus.

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