Mold and Poor Ventilation of Classrooms

Picture this, several elementary school students have displayed runny noses, sneezing, red eyes and skin rashes. Other students have had asthma attacks, and an elderly teacher was sent to the hospital in respiratory distress. Staffers and parents expressed concern to the school’s administration, the district’s superintendent and the school board. So, was it mold or poor ventilation of classrooms? The answer: both.

Mold is great for breaking down organic material, like fallen leaves and dead trees. That’s a great thing for outside your office building, school or house, but it’s not something you want inside. And the only way mold can grow indoors is if there’s a moisture problem and poor ventilation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, signs of poor ventilation in the home or in buildings—like schools—include frosted-looking glass windows and shower doors, discolored floor and wall tiles and grout, signs of rust staining on metal pipes, mold appearance and mold growth on walls, wood or fabric surfaces; and strong odors that do not dissipate and heat build-up that does not dissipate.

Classrooms often suffer from poor air quality and mold.
Poor ventilation of classrooms can lead to mold and poor air quality.

Causes of poor ventilation include old, damaged or malfunctioning HVAC systems, broken, closed or blocked vents and a lack of appropriate venting for the size of the structure.

Sure, repairing or upgrading a central air system, replacing leaky windows that allow moisture to seep inside and adding vents to an existing home are costly projects. But it beats the alternative, doesn’t it?

Clearing the Air

Several years ago, a small school district in New England spent more than a year and several hundred thousand dollars dealing with a situation similar to the one I described earlier in this post.

Poor air quality and mold were discovered in several elementary school classrooms. One of the likely causes? A pile of wet and moldy backpacks in the school basement. The basement and moldy classrooms were cleaned over a school holiday and the school was tested for mold spores several times.

For more than a year, parents and district officials went back and forth about air quality, remediation, testing, mold spores, potential health problems and ways to ensure the students would continue to receive an education in a healthy environment.

There were arguments about whether the district adequately informed parents of the mold and lawsuits were threatened. There were dozens of newspaper articles, TV broadcasts and heated public meetings.

Cleaning the Air

Unfortunately, the problem in that New England school is a problem that exists in schools around the country. And it surely created a difficult situation for district officials, teachers, maintenance staff, parents and students. It could’ve been avoided.

If school districts took air quality and maintaining the HVAC equipment as seriously as they take standardized testing procedures, social media and athletics, a lot of the problems I hear and read about while researching air quality in schools would never happen.

At the absolute minimum, schools need to follow the basic steps to ensuring their students are breathing clean, fresh air. The EPA has a Tools for Schools website that every school in America should have among their web browser’s bookmarks.

Our children are our future. Let’s start acting like it.

For more information on We Are Fresh Air, call Roger Silveira at (408) 426-0628 or email