Holland Public Schools has closed Holland Language Academy due to mold spore colonization and will relocate students to the vacant Longfellow Elementary for the 2019-20 school year.
The Academy building was not occupied when the mold was discovered.
Mold was discovered in two other buildings after a check of all facilities: Holland Heights Elementary and Maplewood Early Childhood Center, according to Superintendent Brian Davis. However, he said mold at those schools was not a colonization, rather isolated pockets.
“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority and we’ve been working with reputable people with the best remediation teams in the region,’’ Davis told MLive Thursday, Aug. 8.
“We wanted to make sure we were very thorough by checking all our buildings.’’
The Holland Language Academy is a K-5, two-way Spanish immersion program. An information meeting for all parents and guardians is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at the performing arts center at Holland High School, located at 600 Van Raalte Ave.
Davis said the district is confident in its partners, Summit Laboratory and VanDam & Krusinga Building Restoration, who are providing expert, science-based information and remediation services.
Following the Aug. 2 mold discovery at the Academy, located at 461 Van Raalte Ave., Davis immediately closed the building to allow for further testing by Summit Laboratory and to begin plans for remediation.
The new school year begins Aug. 19. The Academy is being relocated because the remediation will be extensive and will require several weeks to complete.
Davis said he thought it would be too disruptive and unfair to relocate students and staff back to the building in the middle of the school year.
“We are taking extra precautions at HLA (Holland Language Academy) to fix the current problem and eliminate the risk of future contamination,” Davis said. “This includes removal and replacement of all carpeting and other textiles throughout the building, whether or not they show signs of spore colonization.”
The Maplewood and Holland Heights remediation will be completed before schools starts.
Davis said the mold development at the Academy was traced back to mid-July.
The building became conducive to mold spore colonization when the Jace, a device that provides connectivity to the HVAC system failed, causing the system to not work properly during an extended period of high temperatures and relatively high humidity, he said.
Molds are fungi that grow best in warm, damp, and humid conditions, and spread and reproduce by making spores, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Penicillium and Aspergillus were the two common types of mold found in the buildings.
Summit was called in for testing at the Academy after a contracted cleaning company reported potential air quality issues at the building on July 31, after the HVAC issue had been repaired.
Davis said the mold is not visible to the naked eye, but some cleaners became nauseous or had headaches, indicating there was an issue.
“We are fortunate to have a vacant building in the district to be able to relocate our students,’’ said Davis. Last year’s restructuring in the district moved the Early College program out of Longfellow, 45 E. 25th St.
“VanDam and Krusinga is deep cleaning Longfellow because I want to make sure our families impacted have complete confidence in that facility.’’
Holland School Board approves restructure to right-size district
The Holland School Board voted Monday, March 19, to restructure the district.
The Ottawa County Health Department will inspect the kitchen at Longfellow as part of the transition.
The Academy has been at the Van Raalte site since the 2016-17 school year. There were 320 students enrolled last school year, according to the state.
Remediation of the Academy was scheduled to begin Thursday, Aug. 8, and include physical removal of any mold spores or colonization utilizing negative air pressure, according to the district.
The remediation team will use personal protective equipment during remediation.
The mold is in a small storage closet at Holland Heights, and in a few classrooms at Maplewood that had been used for storage. The heat and humidity in July is believed to have caused the mold.