Toxic mold closes local school building

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

MOUNDS, Ill. - What started as a patch-up job is turning into a dangerous and expensive problem.

Administrators at Meridian Elementary and Junior High in Mounds, Illinois discovered a spot of mold on the wall of a classroom when paint peeled off a wall, at the end of May.

They called in architects to the school, who took multiple samples of the air and then the mold itself. School leaders received those results last week.

They show the mold isn't airborne yet. That's the good news. But there are three different types of mold present in the building, and one is toxic.

That's why the school district is holding an emergency board meeting Wednesday night, and it is open to the public.

You would expect a school building to be empty in the summer. But one look at the door and the closure here appears different.

"We decided to scrape and repaint. We found a patch of mold," said Terry Moreland, Meridian School District Superintendent.

Moreland said that patch of mold turned into much more. He found out when he got a summary letter from the architect.

"He informed me that we needed to be out of the building. We could go in, get what we needed and come out," said Moreland.

Architect Bob Huff said the building is likely riddled with toxic black mold.

"Another six months, and it could have progressed to where the paper would fall off the wall and expose the occupants to that kind of danger," said Huff.

The spores haven't broken through to the air, but Huff said they are growing.

"We went through the rest of the building, and we could see where the paper was starting to crack," he said.

Huff said there's no vapor barrier on the exterior walls and that contributed to the growth.

As for the cost to the fix the problem, the superintendent believes it may be too much for the district to bear.

"We're probably looking at between $1 million and $3 million," Moreland said.

The overall operating budget is about $6 million. But the cost can't be an option when lives may be at stake.

"Frankly, the mold is toxic. You will die. That's how blatant it is," said Huff.

The superintendent said the district does have a few options. They can fix the problem, only repair what they need, or try to add on a wing to the high school building.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Meridian High School building in Mounds, Illinois.

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