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Weed Elementary building closed after discovery of dangerous black mold

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
The Weed Elementary School building that houses the office, library and two special day classrooms has been affected by dangerous black mold.

A severe infestation of black mold that’s the result of water damage from a snowstorm last year is prompting an emergency at Weed Elementary School.

The building that houses the office, library, and two special day classrooms is being evacuated and sealed off, said principal/superintendent Jon Ray. The infestation will not affect the students.

More:These south Siskiyou schools opened classrooms during a pandemic. Here's how it's going

“It’s just another shot, another hurdle,” said Ray Friday morning, after announcing an emergency board meeting for 11:15 a.m. on Oct. 23 to declare the emergency and shut the building down.

Ray received a report from Jon Warren of Construction Resource Management, who performed tests in the affected building. The report indicates “an elevated level of stachybotrys,” which is known to be toxic and can produce dangerous mycotoxins in the wall areas and in the air of the office.

Weed Elementary School office staff Darcy Lee and Cristina Mikolajcyk prepare to evacuate the school's office building after black mold was discovered in the walls and air.

Mycotoxins can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat to humans, according to the World Health Organization. The adverse health effects of mycotoxins range from acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer.

“The office/library building shall not be entered except by a remediation contractor with adequate respiratory protection,” the report states.

Ray said he and the staff are committed to ensuring the school year continues as normal for Weed’s 300 students, whose classrooms are in separate buildings which are not affected by the mold. WES is one of the few Siskiyou County schools that started the year with all in-person classes, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

More:Weed Elementary welcomes students back to classrooms

Ray anticipates the acquisition of portable buildings to house the office staff and special day classrooms until remediation can be completed on the affected building, although he believes the process could take a year or more.

The mold developed from a roof leak in November of 2019, said Ray. The office area flooded and an insurance claim was opened.

Over the summer, office staff smelled something strange, so Ray hired CRM to inspect the building.

Stephanie Aquila prepares to evacuate Weed Elementary School's office building after the discovery of dangerous black mold in the walls and air.

The report that came back on Friday was the worst case scenario. “Immediate health and safety measures are being requested to be put into place involving  remediation and including immediate evacuation and closure of the affected area,” the report reads in red, underlined text.

Ray said the insurance claim is still open, and he plans to head to Sacramento next week, where he’ll ask about health and safety funding from the state to complete necessary repairs to the building.

The Weed Union Elementary School District’s emergency meeting on the steps they’re taking will be held Oct. 23 at 11:15 a.m. at the WES gymnasium.