August 18, 2001
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Mold closes 2 schools in London
Cleanup crews likely won't be done before classes start
Saturday, August 18, 2001
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Mold has shut down two London schools, forcing administrators to scramble to find classroom space for more than 700 students.

London Middle School students will likely attend classes in a former warehouse, and Deercreek Elementary School students will begin their year at a nearby church.

Not even teachers are allowed to enter the middle school as hazardous-materials crews clear the building of potentially dangerous mold caused by recent flooding and hot weather, said Superintendent Thomas P. Coyne.

Although damage was not as bad at the elementary school, classes will be moved. Classes at both schools were supposed to begin Aug. 28.

Insurance adjusters inspecting the damage two weeks ago discovered mold in the air and closed the schools.

At the middle school, crews are working nearly round-the- clock to remove wooden doors, wooden shelves and asbestos floor tile from the basement, where the mold and mildew began to grow after more than a foot of water flooded the room in late July.

"This is pretty dramatic,'' Coyne said.

"The damage to that building is significant, with one problem leading to another, and we have to come up with a plan to get these students to school in a reasonable time frame.''

School administrators are negotiating with owners of the former HomePlace Distribution Center, now an empty warehouse on the city's northeast side, to create makeshift classrooms until the middle school can reopen. Officials hope that could happen as soon as October, Coyne said.

The earliest the 560 middle- school students could attend classes at the HomePlace location would be Sept. 4.

"You can't just overnight start teaching class somewhere else,'' said Principal Mark Elliott.

"If this works out, we'll move our furniture and make do with what we can. Our teachers will have to become much more flexible and informal during all of this.''

Classes for the 150 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade Deercreek students will begin on time, but will be held in St. John's Lutheran Church near downtown London.

"The biggest problem that creates is a transportation nightmare, making sure each student can get to town and to that church,'' Coyne said.

"We've got a lot of work ahead, but it shouldn't be as much of a problem as the middle school.''

This is the worst flood the middle school has had, Elliott said.

"Pretty much everything from those basements has to be destroyed,'' Coyne said. "We never dreamed it would be this bad.''

Attention has increased in the past two years on the potential respiratory problems associated with mold and mildew in school classrooms. In 1999, South-Western and Hamilton Local school districts battled mold. Last year, mold forced officials at Bloom-Carroll Junior High School in Fairfield County to close two classrooms.

Crews from Puro-First, a central Ohio cleaning company, are working on the middle school. The board of education will have to decide how much money to sink into Deercreek, which will be replaced in 2004 by a new elementary school, Coyne said.

In the meantime, Elliott and his middle-school staff of 45 are trying to make do.

"This will go down in the history books as one of our most bizarre school openings,'' Elliott said.

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