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HCPSS Receives Supplemental Information and Recommendations Related to County’s Indoor Air Quality Assessments of 12 Schools

Posted: August 18th, 2016

All questions regarding the Skelly and Lloyd study mentioned below should be directed to the Howard County Government’s public information office.

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) received supplemental information and recommendations today from the Howard County Department of Public Works related to the County’s recent air quality assessments at 12 schools. The recommendations, received Wednesday, August 17, follow the air quality reports produced by Skelly and Loy, an engineering and environmental consulting firm hired by the County.

Skelly and Loy also provided supplemental information to support the initial reports. The supplemental document indicates that mold spore levels identified in all 12 schools are typical for U.S. public schools in similar geographic regions, and the types and concentrations of airborne mold spores do not normally pose a health risk. The supplement also confirms that the school system and school maintenance staff are “doing a good job of controlling indoor moisture and mold growth, resulting in the protection of health of students and staff.”

“The school system appreciates the county’s support in ensuring healthy learning environments for Howard County students and staff,” said Board of Education Chairman Christine E. O’Connor. “The reports, recommendations and supplemental information are valuable information to use during regular maintenance and ongoing work to enhance school environmental conditions as we prepare to welcome students, staff and community members back to schools this month.”

School system staff are collaborating with environmental contractor Edward Light, CIH, president of Building Dynamics, LLC, to closely review the recommendations and determine appropriate actions. Light is a nationally recognized environmental quality expert with decades of experience in assessing air quality. He has evaluated mold and other environmental concerns in thousands of schools and office buildings in Maryland and throughout the nation.

Each recommendation is being evaluated to weigh its potential benefit, costs and impacts to learning environments. Many of the recommendations are for further testing to ascertain whether mold growth exists. For example, wall cavity sampling in areas where no specific problem was identified, which would incur significant costs. Random wall cavity sampling also would result in noise, dust, and other adverse effects that could disrupt the learning environment and cause physical discomfort.

Some of the recommendations identify instances of minor water damage, which the school system has begun to address, and others relate to relative humidity and parameters that affect comfort rather than health. The recommendations do not include comparisons to environmental industry guidelines, and no state or federal standards exist for spore measurements or visual inspections.

To provide context, the assessment data and recommendations are being compared to those provided through previous environmental assessment reports. Schools throughout the system are frequently assessed by staff and environmental contractors, and 12 schools are subject to state inspections each year.

This school year, all Howard County public schools begin using new Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) protocols, in accordance with recommendations from the school system’s IEQ Committee. Information and resources are available on the new HCPSS Indoor Environmental Quality web page and on each school’s website, where users can report and track concerns and find documentation on existing environmental assessments.