Nearly every Richmond school had visible signs of mold growth, reports reveal

Schwenk: 'The oldest building in RPS is more than 100 years old, and the majority of our buildings are over 40 years old. Age inevitably has an impact on the health and well-being of our buildings.'
RPS Mold Reports
Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-08 17:24:56-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools released the results of recent mold tests at dozens of schools across the district, and they revealed nearly every school had visible signs of mold growth in the building.

RPS offered tests to every principal, and 24 of them accepted. CBS 6 reviewed all the reports.

Though RPS said in a message on its website that only "a few" schools had visible mold and stained ceilings, an analysis of the reports showed that all 24 schools had stained ceilings, and 22 schools were observed to have visible or suspected mold.

CBS 6 requested an interview with a division facilities expert, but RPS spokesperson Alyssa Schwenk said she could not accommodate an interview, citing scheduling conflicts.

Schwenk said the biggest danger is when there's a presence of mold amplifying and floating through the air, and that was not identified to be an issue at any school, according to the reports.

WATCH NOW: New images show mold inside nearly every Richmond school

Nearly every Richmond school had visible signs of mold growth, reports reveal

Parents and staff began raising concerns about mold issues toward the beginning of the school year when teachers reported that they and some of their students were getting sick due to mold exposure.

The Richmond Education Association took the issue on as a focal advocacy point for its union, recommending policy proposals to the Richmond School Board for addressing and reporting air quality concerns.

While the school board did not consider the union's recommendations, the district administration created new reporting guidelines for staff and expanded testing across the district.

"Since the first report, RPS has taken all reports of mold seriously, as evidenced by the thorough response. We've shared the findings with every school community and are continuing to work with them to ensure their parents, teachers, and staff have their questions answered," Schwenk said in a statement to CBS 6.

RPS Mold Reports

Here's a breakdown of some of the findings:

At Albert Hill Middle School, mold was observed on the fan units in "many" classrooms and the cafeteria, and "significant concentrations of mold spores" were found on tested surfaces.

At Richmond Community, there was visible mold growth throughout multiple locations in the building including on the ceiling tiles, pipes, and in the hallway. There were "heavy" amounts of mold found on tested surfaces that contained "black growth." There were also active roof leaks in the school.

Visible or suspected mold was identified on the HVAC and AC units in many schools including Fairfield Elementary, Swansboro Elementary, Barack Obama Elementary, Bellevue Elementary, Fox and Clark Springs Elementary, GH Reid Elementary, Mary Munford Elementary, Lois Harrison Elementary, Maymont Preschool, Summer Hill Preschool, and Westover Hills Elementary.

Water intrusion issues also appeared to be present at multiple schools.

For example, at Redd Elementary, there were elevated moisture meter readings in the plaster walls in most classrooms and multiple active moisture sources impacting the walls. There were active water leaks reported in multiple rooms, and signs of mold growth and moisture that occurred on tested surfaces for an "extended period of time."

RPS Mold Reports

The reports recommended third-party remediation by a contractor at multiple schools. Schwenk did not directly answer a question as to whether RPS is considering that as an option.

She said the facilities team is actively working to address visible signs of mold along with early-warning signs and will continue that work into April.

In past school board meetings, Superintendent Jason Kamras and some board members expressed poor facility conditions were a symptom of underfunding.

RPS Mold Reports

In last year's budget, the district only received $2.5 million from the city for capital improvements.

“How are we maintaining 5 million square feet with only $2.5 million dollars?” board member Shonda Harris-Muhammed asked in a previous board meeting.

“We’re not," Kamras answered.

Schwenk said the district needs help to overcome a historic disinvestment in public schools.

"The oldest building in RPS is more than 100 years old, and the majority of our buildings are over 40 years old. Age inevitably has an impact on the health and well-being of our buildings. We did not get here overnight, and we will not fix the challenges overnight," she said.

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