Starke Elementary closes due to mold

STARKE, Fla. - The Bradford County school district is scrambling to find a place to put around 500 children after a school was deemed unsafe because of mold.

Even though school has already started, kids will not allowed back in Starke Elementary, and there will be no classes for students anywhere Sept. 3, which are leaving some parents unhappy.

"We had mold levels that I did not find acceptable for the time being for personnel and students in those classrooms," Bradford County Superintendent Chad Farnsworth said. "The long term plan is to get Starke Elementary back up and running and safe and secure for our personnel."

In the report by the air quality company the district hired, there are pictures in air ducts and classrooms that show signs of mold and too much moisture to be safe. The school was quickly shut down.

The temporary solution that Farnsworth is working on now is finding classroom space at local churches, where roughly 500 kids will attend school until the problem is fixed.

In a letter to parents, Farnsworth said areas of the school do not meet the air check standards for environmental quality.

"In an abundance of caution for our children and employees, I have decided to temporarily close Starke Elementary School to allow for a complete assessment of the entire facility," Farnsworth wrote.

The school will be closed effective Friday.

"We are working with our other school sites and community partners to find classroom space to relocate students," Farnsworth wrote. "If your child is zoned to attend Southside Elementary, Lawtey Elementary, Hampton Elementary or Brooker Elementary, we highly recommend your child return to their zoned school immediately."

Channel 4 asked Dr. J Danny Pulido of Memorial Health about the dangers of mold. He said it can be dangerous to continually breathe day after day.

"It can trigger hypersensitivity, respiratory attacks such as asthma. So that's where the concern is. If students have asthma, they would be at high risk if exposed to it in air," said Dr. J. Danny Pulido.

Pulido said mold in schools is not unique to Starke or at the beginning of the school year.

"Given the temperature and the humidity, rooms that are dark and ventilated, such as classrooms, mold is a great place to set in and start to grow. You start to see issues at early time of school year," said Dr. Pulido.

"We removed some carpet and replaced tile," Farnsworth said. "That's when I wanted to make sure that we had some more information on it. When that information came in, I decided I would err on the side of caution in the health and safety of our students."

Classes will resume at alternate locations on Sept. 3. Parents will be notified of the locations and any other changes via mail, phone calls and the Bradford County School District website and Facebook page.

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