Archive for Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Mold problems still plague two Tonganoxie schools

Elementary school library closed last week

September 18, 2002

It's good news at Tonganoxie Elementary School's library, where the doors reopened this week.

The school closed the library last week so maintenance workers could get the high humidity levels under control.

Art Sorensen, the school district's maintenance supervisor, said the elementary school library closure was a preventive measure.

"We noticed the dampness in the books," Sorensen said. "We wanted to get it cleaned up before it got any further."

The problem was solved by putting two dehumidifiers in the library, Sorensen said.

"We've been running real good in there," he said Friday. "Yesterday we had 45 percent humidity in there."

The library is a part of the fourth-grade wing in which new air-conditioning units were installed in August. The area also includes 12 classrooms, Sorensen said.

In recent years, the prevalence of high humidity, which can lead to mold growth, has led to an ongoing struggle in the elementary and junior high schools. To combat the mold, the schools in the last two years replaced carpets with tile floors in many of the classrooms. And, problem rooms now have dehumidifiers, which Sorensen said help.

Each year this is a short-lived problem, Sorensen said.

"As soon as the temperatures go down and we go on to heat then we don't have a problem," Sorensen said. "It's just the cooling part of it."

At last week's school board meeting, Jim French, architect with the DLR Group, the architectural firm hired to lead the school district through planning and possible construction and renovation of school facilities, summarized his findings after looking at the district's buildings. He said the high humidity problem could be blamed on the size of the air-conditioning units.

"The condensing unit doesn't run long enough to bring the humidity out of the room, and it does run long enough to bring the temperature down."

The best solution, French said, would be to replace the air-conditioning units.

Richard Erickson, district superintendent, said he understood the problem, but said because a bond issue would have to be passed to cover such an expense, the district would continue to work on the humidity problems as it has been by replacing carpeting with floor tile and by using dehumidifiers.

Sorensen said that with the help of dehumidifiers in the classrooms and with careful monitoring of the thermostat settings, humidity levels have leveled out.

A classroom humidity level of 60 percent is the recommended maximum, Sorensen said. But it's better, he said if the classroom humidity level rests at 50 percent, or lower. During the more humid months, Sorensen said, some of the classrooms have registered at more than 70 percent.

"We've done about everything that we can do that we know of, other than replacing the units like the architect said," Sorensen said Friday. "We'd be talking about 12 units at the grade school and maybe 30 at the junior high."

The units could run as much as $8,000 to $15,000 each, Sorensen said.

"When you get that type of money invested into it, it's lots of dollars and the school system doesn't have that," Sorensen said.

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