While clean-up efforts at Payson Elementary School have reduced fungus and mold contamination, the permanent solution changing the school's cooling system from evaporative to air conditioning will take time and money, Principal Roy Sandoval said.
"I've talked to two testing companies, Allen Environmental Services of Mesa that ran the tests on PES and a company in California, and they both said, 'Follow the water.' We have 451 kids bringing in moisture day in and day out, and then the coolers are also bringing in moist air.
"It goes through the vents, and the residual moisture condensates in the carpeting," he said. To alleviate the moisture problem, Sandoval is lobbying the school board to replace the school's 18 evaporative coolers with air conditioning.
"When you have air conditioning you are controlling the humidity and allowing the air to be much more efficiently filtered," he said.
A new assessment conducted last month showed that clean-up and replacement efforts have reduced the contamination, which a teacher and a secretary had complained aggravated their asthma and allergy symptoms.
"We're clear for now," Sandoval said. "The primary areas we retested are below the ambient amounts of contaminants in the air."
Initial tests, performed over Christmas vacation, found fungus and other contaminants at nondangerous levels throughout the school.
The vents and ductwork throughout the school were cleaned, the carpeting in the worst areas was replaced with vinyl-backed, hypo-allergenic carpeting and drywall was replaced in a back storeroom.
Clean-up and repair efforts will begin again this summer. Eventually, school officials want to replace all the carpeting in the building. The total cost of the cleanup is expected to run between $200,000 and $250,000. District officials hope to get some funding from the state's school facilities board, Joe Martin, Payson School District director of support operations, said.
"Our insurance carrier will only pay for the storeroom area, where there was visible damage, and that's just a fraction of the total," Martin said.