Dare school board addresses mold at First Flight Elementary, Middle schools

Published 9:37 pm Sunday, August 20, 2023

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The Dare County Board of Education held a virtual emergency meeting Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023, to address mold in First Flight Elementary and First Flight Middle schools.

As explained in letters to staff, students and families, during the summer, the school system was replacing boilers in both schools.

“The process, while necessary, has left us with air conditioning in both buildings, but without the boilers we lost the ability to control the humidity. A component of the new boiler has to be manufactured based on the installation and we are still waiting for that part,” writes Dare County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight to parents and students.

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With the inability to control humidity, both buildings have become very damp leading to surface mold on computer cases, furniture, carpets and tables, states the letters.

Over the last week, staff has repeatedly cleaned and treated surfaces with recommended products to eliminate the mold.

To address the ongoing problem, Dare County’s Board of Education approved a contract with Builder Services of North Carolina for emergency maintenance of the school property at the two First Flight Schools for mold mitigation.

On Wednesday, the company was moving equipment into the area between the two schools. On Thursday, the firm was to get the humidity in each building under control. It will maintain humidity control with dehumidifiers until the boilers are operating.

The firm brings its own employees to clean both buildings to “remove growth, spray an anti-microbial to prevent additional growth, then clean the buildings again,” states the letter.

“We will also have a separate company complete air quality testing before any students or staff are expected in the building to ensure the air is safe.” The board gave Basnight the authority to negotiate a contract for air quality testing for both schools throughout the school year.

Basnight reports the goal is to have both buildings ready for staff Wednesday, Aug. 23, with a clean air quality report.

The Builder Services contract is for $932,754.23, which will wipe out the school board’s $1 million fund balance.

Dare County manager Robert L. Outten and Basnight have talked. Outten has informed the Dare County Board of Commissioners. The item will be on the commissioners Sept. 6, 2023 agenda, reports Outten.

An Incident Response Team is established with representatives from the school system including Basnight, Assistant Superintendent Steve Blackstock, director of student services Shannon Castillo, director of elementary education Caitlin Spruill, director of secondary education Denise Fallon, public information officer Hannah Nash, facility/maintenance Ian Adams and director of human resources Oliver Holley. Also on the team are Dare County director of Health and Human Services Sheila Davies and Public Health School Health Program supervisor Jodi Wyant. The parents/students letter indicates the team will “monitor the situation and answer any questions.”