Mar 13, 2024 - News

Report: There's mold in at least 20 Richmond schools

Illustration of a school desk surrounded by caution tape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Richmond Public Schools has a pervasive mold problem.

The big picture: Mold was detected in 20 of 22 RPS schools, per an Axios review of recently released mold assessments from the district first reported by WTVR.

  • A report from a 23rd school, Richmond Technical Center, hasn't been uploaded to the RPS site yet.
  • But the findings do include Boushall Middle, which has been the subject of mold complaints from teachers and parents saying it's making their kids sick, according to VPM.
  • These concerns led RPS officials to ask each school if they wanted mold testing done — 23 said yes.

Zoom in: The reports showed mold present in preschool cafeterias and classroom A/C units, black mold growth at Richmond Community High School and visible mold in elementary school ceiling tiles and HVAC ducts.

  • At Mary Munford Elementary, the report found traces of a mold spore that indicates "molds have colonized and are amplifying within the building."

None of this deems any of these schools unsafe, say the reports, but there are "currently no accepted regulatory standards or guidelines with respect to acceptable fungal levels inside buildings."

Friction point: Some of these schools are over a century old, and all are running up against limited funding for repairs.

  • In an October School Board meeting, member Shonda Harris-Muhammed asked, "How are we maintaining 5 million square feet with only $2.5 million?" referring to the money from the city for capital improvements.
  • RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras responded with two words: "We're not."

Flashback: Last year, Richmond officials opted to move voter precincts out of two Richmond schools because of mold concerns before reversing the decision.

  • And before Fox Elementary School relocated to Clark Springs after the fire in 2022, RPS spent roughly $20,000 on mold remediation, per WTVR.

What's next: RPS spokesperson Alyssa Schwenk tells Axios the district has begun tackling the issues in the reports and has plans to complete more work by the end of April.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Richmond election officials reversed their decision last year to move voter precincts out of two schools because of mold concerns.

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