STARKE, Fla. - Starke Elementary School reopened Tuesday after it was closed in August due to the school having "unacceptable air quality," according to the Bradford County School District.
"It's wonderful. It's like coming home to a nice, fresh, smell-good feel-good school," said first-grade teacher Patricia Wainwright, who's taught at the school for 16 years. "Everybody's really excited about being back today."
The school closed on Aug. 23 after Superintendent Chad Farnsworth reviewed a building health report which determined the school had unacceptable air quality.
Wainwright said walking into her classroom Tuesday and not immediately feeling humidity and smelling mold was amazing.
"The day we moved in, we knew all the books would curl, there would be a lot of dampness, we had to run the humidifiers that we dumped constantly," she said. "So it's been here all the time. We're just getting it fixed now."
Students resumed classes at alternate locations on Sept. 3 after the closure.
"To date we have been able to complete enough of an assessment to identify what we feel are the primary causes of the mold growth," architect Paul Stressing said in a letter to Farnsworth last year. "The contributing factors found appear to be failed or compromised mechanical equipment, automated controls, insufficient outside air ventilation and building pressure, and various breaches in the perimeter building thermal envelope."
"The voids in the thermal envelope appear to be the result of shifting, settlement, and sagging of insulation due to age and expansion and contraction of building materials, which we are still in the process of documenting," Stressing continued. "New automated controls have been ordered and installed on the current 15+ year-old equipment that has been recently repaired until the newly ordered mechanical equipment arrives."
Stressing said the new mechanical equipment would take more than 12 weeks to arrive, therefore making it necessary to both repair the existing aged equipment and add supplemental portable dehumidifiers. Stressing said it was necessary "to accelerate the dry out efforts of some of the interior spaces and bring the interior condition space to a controllable environment that prohibits mold growth."
"Every AC unit was replaced in the school," said Brian Graham, community relations coordinator for the school district. "The voids in the building envelope were sealed before you could look up and you would see daylight coming in from the exterior. You don't see that anymore. It's been sealed and conditioned."
School district officials said the total cost of the project was expected to range from $1.5 million to $2 million. The Bradford County School District allocated $177,100.72 from Fund 360 (Capital Outlay & Debt Service Fund) and $935,990.98 from Fund 370 (Local Capital Outlay Fund) for the project.
The district said it would also obtain a loan in the amount of $850,000 for a total of $1,963,091.70.
As the Bradford County School District's spring break wrapped up, teachers returned for a planning day Monday. Students returned to Starke Elementary School on Tuesday.
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