With warm weather and record rainfall over the last two months, mold has become a problem in dozens of schools in Maryland. The problem has been severe enough to force students to relocate.
The excessive rain over the summer combined with an end-of-summer heat wave has created the perfect growing conditions for mold, which thrives in damp, warm areas. The Baltimore area has had a record year for precipitation with 51 inches of rainfall already, about 9 inches higher than the average annual amount.
At Callaway Elementary School in Northwest Baltimore, students had to be relocated from numerous contaminated classrooms on the first and second floor. Dehumidifiers and insulating pipes are being installed to stop condensation that has been isolated as a major contributor to the mold problem.
Other Anne Arundel County Public Schools buildings has had similar mold problems with mold on carpeting, furniture, and other surfaces.
Mold spores were also found at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students in Elkton Hall were forced to move into nearby hotels when mold was found throughout the dorm and other residence halls. The University paid for students to stay in hotels after several students reported the mold made them sick.
University staff first reported the mold in a September 19 email to students saying they had received reports of mold on bedroom surfaces and furniture. A week later, an update was sent out informing Elkton Hall residents they would be relocated to facilitate aggressive mold remediation.
More than 500 students, mostly freshman, were living in Elkton. While they are staying temporarily in hotels, mold remediation contractors are cleaning every room in the 8-story dorm. Some students are expected to remain in area hotels until the beginning of October.
The mold only adds to the other housing issues at the compound campus. Nearly 2,000 students are living without air conditioning and beds must be added to some rooms while lounges need to be converted to dorm rooms to accommodate an extra 350 students this year with a larger-than-expected number enrolling.
While most mold infestations are not dangerous, mold exposure can cause a wide range of allergic symptoms such as eye irritation, congestion, rash, cough, sore throat, sneezing, and aggravation of existing asthma. In some people, mold exposure can cause more serious problems like infections, persistent cough, and bronchitis.
This isn’t the first time mold has been a problem in Maryland schools. Two years ago, parent complaints prompted an audit that found 12 Howard County schools had higher-than-expected mold levels. Other states have also reported an increase in mold issues. In Chicago, New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, other schools have been forced to relocate students for mold remediation.
In the last two weeks, mold has forced the closure of a Yonkers school in New York after mold was found in ceiling tiles due to a leaking roof. Two schools in West Virginia had to close schools after tests found high levels of mold. A middle school on a military base in North Carolina was also affected. Parents expressed outrage after students were returned to class despite mold and water damage from Hurricane Florence that made some students sick. When parents visited the school, they reported bugs, buckled floors, and mold on vents and ceiling tiles.