Willowridge High closed due to mold

Giant garbage bins and other equipment sit in front of Willowridge High School as crews work round the clock to remove and clean mold that spread through most of the building. (Photo by Joe Southern)

School won’t be ready on first day back

By Joe Southern

Willowridge High School will not be ready for the return of students Aug. 22 due to efforts to clean up mold that spread throughout the school over the summer.

“Our primary focus is the academic achievement of our students. We want to make sure they are in classrooms and ready to learn on the first day of school, even if they will be learning in a different location,” FBISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Dupre said in a news release.

It is not yet known where Willowridge students will report on the first day of school. District staff members continue to finalize plans for the start of the school year, with details to be shared within the week.

District leaders initially hoped remediation would be finished in time for school to start, but that will not be possible due to the extensive process and the lead-time required to restore the building and purchase replacement items.

“We are in constant communication with the leadership team at WHS, and we are in the process of replacing all instructional items, furniture, supplies and the many other items that are needed to restore WHS and support the school. Still, we empathize with our teachers who may have lost personal belongings, and so we understand and appreciate that many fellow teachers and community members are willing to help with supplemental items,” Dupre said.

Environmental experts are working 24 hours, seven days a week to clean the mess.

“Our building was recently shut down for planned construction, and during that time, mold was found in parts of the building,” Principal Thomas Graham said in a letter sent to parents on July 19. “Fortunately, the summer staff of WHS had previously relocated to another campus during construction, so no one was in the building at the time.

Experts tell us the mold is mostly likely the result of prolonged humidity in the building.”

The district has created a page on its website to provide updated information on the clean-up effort at the school. It can be found at www.fortbendisd.com/WHSMoldRemediation.

The website has a Q&A link that gives more detail into what happened at Willowridge. According to the site, “Suspicious growth was initially discovered in the Band Hall offices, but spread throughout the building, impacting a significantly large area of the school in some way, including offices, classrooms, etc. While some media reports have referred to it as being ‘black mold,’ lab results from spore samples identified the mold as Penicillium, which is a common type of mold and not toxic black mold.”

Some of the questions and answers on the site include:

Is the mold harmful to my student’s health?

Exposure to mold has little or no effect on a healthy person, and is typically harmful only if ingested. If you have any health concerns, please contact your family doctor or visit an area health clinic.

What about student uniforms stored at the school, are those safe for students to wear?

Yes. The District has contracted a professional cleaning company to thoroughly clean all band, JROTC and athletic uniforms for student use throughout the school year.

When do you expect the school to be cleared for students to re-enter the building?

Because the health and safety of our students and staff is the highest priority, Fort Bend ISD will not clear the building until it has been completely cleaned and reinvigorated, and all necessary furniture and instructional items have been installed and delivered. … District leaders have been working very closely with the WHS administrative team to develop alternative plans for the start of the 2017-18 school year, and we will advise our community about the plans as soon as they are finalized. Transportation will be provided to all students.

How will we know the building will be safe for re-entry?

We are working with certified environmental experts, who are required to follow state regulations, to clean and sanitize the building. Certified experts will then inspect the building to confirm that the area is mold free before crews replace flooring, sheetrock and ceiling tiles. Engineers will also conduct a full inspection on the school’s HVAC unit, giving it a thorough cleaning and tune-up to control the airflow throughout the campus.

How do I contact school staff if the building is closed?

Willowridge summer staff is currently housed at Marshall High School (1220 Buffalo Run, Missouri City). You may contact staff at WHS’ main number, 281-634-2450.

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