Delayed School Start Dates Underscore Need for Proper Indoor Air Quality

Hundreds of students got unexpected news as they geared up for back to school – their first day for the 2018-2019 school year was pushed back. While many kids were celebrating an extended summer vacation, many parents and community members were left with questions about the conditions of school buildings.

The cause of the delay? Problems with indoor air quality, mold, and damage caused from the hot weather. These issues affected school start dates in seven districts across southwestern Pennsylvania, including:

School District Schools Environmental Hazard Found Action Taken
Shaler High School Spores found in air quality tests Delayed opening to Sept. 4
Highlands High School Mold Delayed opening to Sept. 4
Plum-Borough High School, Obleck Middle School Mold found in 3 classrooms Delayed opening for the district to Sept. 4
Mt. Pleasant Junior-Senior High School Water damage around windows causing mold Delayed opening to Sept. 4; remediation on going through Reynold’s Restoration
Pine-Richland Hance Elementary School Mold on ceilings Moved to Eden Hall Elementary School while remediation occurs
Southmoreland High School Air quality Remediation ongoing
North Allegheny McKnight Elementary School Mold in classrooms Children moved from affected areas; remediation on-going by AGX Environmental Consultants

While these issues are not uncommon at the end of the summer, there are ways schools and school districts can prevent them. The Environmental Protection Agency published guidelines, titled “Tools for Schools” that help schools create and implement healthy indoor air quality plans. Under these guidelines are several resources intended to help members of a school community – from teachers, to students; to parents and facilities directors – to make informed decisions to protect children’s health.

Children spend up to 1,000 hours in school every year. We must all do what we can to protect the environments in which they live, learn, and play. The first step is getting informed and pursuing preventive strategies, rather than just remediation once a problem has been identified. Together, we can take important steps to ensure delayed school starts are prevented.