LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Education on Monday approved spending $26,500 on cleanup of the Scotland High School media center, closed to students since last week when mold and mildew were found growing on books and furniture.
The media center has been closed since the start of school after the mold was discovered. Scotland County Schools Maintenance Director Roger Ammons described the mold as “not a huge amount.”
“We closed the media center immediately after we determined that it was mold and mildew,” Ammons said. “It’s actually on the books in the media center and on the shelves. It’s more on furniture and books than anywhere.”
Phil Perry, an engineer with the state Department of Public Instruction, gave the school board a report on the problem during the board’s regular meeting Monday night.
“The reason for the mold is high relative humidity,” said Perry. “It’s a statewide problem stemming from the humid and wet summer and the low temperatures… . It’s a problem but it’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen.”
As the media center’s air conditioning unit is independent from the rest of the school, and no mold has been noted in other areas, Perry said that students are at little to no risk of exposure. He said further mold growth can be prevented through modifications to the unit’s software, which will be made before eradication of the existing mold.
“We have to do some modifications on the air conditioning system and monitor how that impacts the relative humidity and get that under control before we clean it up,” Perry said.
The board approved an expenditure of $26,500 to clean the media center’s air ducts, shelving and 29,000 books, which could begin as early as Saturday.
“Once we get the conditions dry, we’re not going to do anything until we monitor for several days to make sure we keep the humidity under 60 percent and then we’re going to go in and completely clean it from top to bottom,” Ammons said.
A $24,318 project to replace the media center carpet with tile at the end of the school year, as recommended by enginers, was approved in the same motion, although the carpet has not contributed to mold growth. Board member Pat Gates cast the lone dissenting vote.
Also on Monday, the board approved changes in its capital outlay budget for this year, tabling renovations to an auxiliary building on the Shaw Academy campus as the projected cost came in over the $204,000 originally budgeted.
In lieu of the Shaw project, the board decided to spend $59,000 to add a parking lot at North Laurinburg Elementary, $30,000 to resurface the teacher parking lot at Wagram Primary, $25,000 to resurface South Scotland Elementary’s teacher parking lot, and $10,000 for card entry systems at three schools. Funds to pay for the high school’s media center cleanup were included in the budget.
Also nixed was a plan to replace Shaw Academy’s original gym flooring, constructed in 1956. The flooring in the gym, which has not been used in several years due to safety concerns, will instead be repaired.
Board member Darrel Gibson cast the sole vote against the budget changes.
“Shaw is old, and I’m seeing that we’re eliminating redoing Shaw’s old floor to replace carpet at the high school that doesn’t really have to be replaced,” he said.
In his report, Superintendent Rick Stout said that this school year’s enrollment to date may indicate a further decline in the school system’s average daily membership - the student population count upon which state funding is based.
“It was 6,700 when I started and we’re right around 6,000 right now and with our five-day count it looks like we’re going possibly below what our projections are, which is another loss of revenue that’s hard for us to predict,” Stout said. “Our kindergarten classes seem to be doing well right now, but for some reason we don’t have students in certain grades and we’re out there searching to find out if they’re still here in our county or why they’re not coming to school.”
Stout added that, although the state’s gross education spending increased this school year, the increase was not proportional to the growing student population statewide.
“I know it’s been said that we have gained $326 million statewide in terms of what the governor gave to education,” Stout said. “What they didn’t say was that we added five percent more student enrollment in the state, which was a negative effect in terms of spending per child.”
The board also recognized the five system schools to be named by the state education department as Title I Reward Schools: Covington Street Elementary, Laurel Hill Elementary, Spring Hill Middle, South Scotland Elementary and Washington Park Elementary. Laurel Hill Elementary was in the top 10 percent of high performing schools in the state and has the chance to be selected to represent North Carolina in the national Title I Distinguished Schools Program.
A Reward School is a Title I school identified as a high-performing or high-progress school.
“There were nine other districts in the state that had five or more schools with this award,” said Pamela Baldwin, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Of those nine, only two were about our size. To have five schools in a district our size awarded for Title I is phenomenal.”