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‘Extensive’ mold damage cleaned up after leaking water heater flooded a SUHSD classroom

A preliminary report shows no cause for concern about mold toxicity, expert said
Black mold on a wall

A special education classroom in the Sequoia Union High School District is still undergoing renovations after a leak caused extensive mold damage earlier this year. 

Clean-up efforts have since been completed, but the portable classroom isn’t expected to be back in operation until scheduled repairs are completed before the end of September. The affected classroom is part of the district’s TRACE program, which serves young adults with special needs and is located on a separate campus.

Students returned to school for the start of the fall semester on Aug. 17.

No students were occupying the classroom at the time of the leak, according to Crystal Leach, the associate superintendent of administrative services, who said that it was discovered on the first day of summer school, June 13. 

An agenda item from the special Aug. 3 Board meeting says the leak occurred in May and caused students to be relocated, however, Leach called that “misinformation.” Rolando Bonilla, a communications consultant for the district, confirmed the mistake.

During the meeting, the board of trustees approved the $36,000 contract for mold mitigation with the Asbestos Management Group of California.

The leak was immediately repaired upon discovery, but flooding had already saturated the subflooring, casework and lower wall panels and damaged the vinyl floor tiles, according to the board report. In mid-July, a contractor hired to replace the floor found what the report described as "extensive black mold” over approximately 1,100 square feet of the plywood subfloor and lower walls. 

Testing of the interior and exterior of the classroom by a third-party lab testing company found evidence of several types of fungi in the air, but nothing to be alarmed about, according to UC Berkeley mycologist John Taylor who looked at the report.

“There’s more spores outside than inside, and that’s what you want to see,” he said, adding that there was “no evidence of toxic fungi” in the classroom. “If my child were in that room, I wouldn’t be worried.”

The preliminary report noted that additional mold growth could be present in the walls or ceilings where investigators found elevated moisture, but that they didn't remove any wall panels to check.

Mold mitigation was completed by Aug. 12, the costs of which should be almost fully covered by insurance, according to Leach.


Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast.
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