By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 —
Last summer, Stanly County Schools Director of Maintenance Todd Bowers had a study conducted of humidity levels in certain classrooms at Badin Elementary School.
The study’s findings confirmed what Bowers had already thought to be true: humidity levels were exceeding a preferred indoor setting.
The consequence of those levels, in addition to a school building that is nearly 100 years old, is that small amounts of mold have small amounts of mold have been found on the back of desks.
“During the summer in a couple of classrooms we do have an issue that will come up where we get a grayish type of mold that will come up,” Bowers said.
“We don’t have a problem in winter time because humidity levels are pretty low.”
The study was completed by Brian Burkhart, a consulting engineer with the Plant Operation Section of the Department of Public Instruction.
In a letter Burkhart sent to Bowers on the results, he said that the classrooms in the “Old Building” have two HVAC units that are responsible for heating and cooling the air. The issue, Burkhart said, was that the units “do not circulate the air very well and do little to help with humidity levels.”
With the expectation that indoor humidity levels should be between 30 to 50 percent so that there is no moisture accumulation, the areas that were surveyed failed the test.
From Sept. 7 through Sept. 14, the average humidity level in one classroom, Classroom 4 as labeled in the survey, was 65 percent, and the humidity in the hallway was 61 percent.
Another classroom in the “Old Building,” Classroom 6, Burkhart observed that mold was found on chairs and desks. Even small amounts of water were seen, indicating what he found to be a humidity and moisture issue in the classroom.
The cost to install a new central HVAC system for the school would be approximately $611,500, so instead, for the time being, Bowers will be using dehumidifiers in about 10-12 classrooms that are believed to have moisture problems.
“It’s an older building. In a lot of these rooms I’m going to have to put dehumidifiers in so I can control the humidity levels in the room. There’s no other way to do it,” he said.
“We don’t want to change out the entire AC system. Looking at a number of classrooms, I was expecting to spend between $3,000 to $4,000 in dehumidifiers.”
Bowers assured the facilities committee last week that teachers were monitoring the situation, often cleaning desks or area with disinfectants when mold was spotted.
While the humidity levels are not a concern during the winter months, Bowers said that with the permission of the school board, he will purchase the dehumidifiers and, when the time arises, monitor the levels.
“Right now it’s not an issue, but [it] will be as soon as air conditioning comes back on.”
School Board member Mitzie Almond asked if the dehumidifiers could be a safety issue with teachers having to empty the water, but Bowers said that drains on the dehumidifiers would be tied into an existing drain.
“The fortunate thing is the cooling season is the smaller part of our school season,” he said.