OLD BRIDGE — The 1,000 or so students who attend the Jonas Salk Middle School are back in classes after missing two days as a result of mold being found in the building.
“We are always evaluating the condition of our facilities,” Old Bridge Public Schools Superintendent of Schools David Cittadino said. “However, this August was a particular concern due to humid conditions and higher than normal rain totals.”
Cittadino said the building leadership worked hard to create interactive events to welcome students back to the grade 6-8 school on Sept. 12.
He said district administrators wanted to be abundantly cautious and made the decision to close and check the entire school. He said areas of concern were spread out, some areas were student high-traffic areas.
“We also decided it was best to limit student and staff access to the building during the entire process,” he said. “To be vigilant, we deep cleaned and air quality tested the entire facility to ensure we were addressing the problem once and only once.”
On Sept. 10, an independent environmental hygienist from Environmental Connections, Trenton, assessed all air quality test sample concentrations taken from nearly 40 interior locations in the school had been returned with fungal spore levels less than the background (exterior) concentration samples.
Cittadino held a meeting with parents to address the mold issue on Sept. 6, which was the day schools opened for the 2018-19 school year.
“My approach is to always be honest and forthcoming with our families and staff,” Cittadino said. “Approximately 50 people representing both groups attended a meeting on Sept. 6 in the Ellen McDermott Grade Nine Center auditorium. I provided all attendees with a timeline of events, facts, pictures and possibilities. I believe everyone came away satisfied with our proactive response and how we prioritized student and staff wellness.”
The cost of the remediation was approximately $1.5 million, which the district has to lay out and then put in an insurance claim.
Cittadino said he is fortunate to serve a district with a Board of Education that sets student and staff welfare as a priority.
“This was a tremendous undertaking and the entire community offered resources to get our students back in school as soon as possible,” he said. “I would say 95 percent of the Salk staff was at school on Sept. 11, although the district was closed for religious observation, to make sure the school looked like business as usual and welcoming for the students on the first day. I would say that through the entire process, we all proved to be Salk Strong.”