Eric Althouse, of Air Intellect LLC of Tallahassee, checks for mold in the air-conditioning ducts at Bayshore Elementary in Port St. Lucie on Friday.
...Eric Althouse, the consultant, is working to make sure mold won't be an issue for children returning to school , or evacuees seeking shelter.
But Bayshore and other schools picked as shelters are still undergoing work as hurricane season picks up speed and children reach for back-to-school supplies on store shelves.
"My main concern is screening classrooms before school starts," Althouse
said."As I was working through the complaints, it made sense that I look at schools that will be used as shelters."
The tests are a valuable reassurance.
On Thursday, Althouse
surveyed Dan McCarty Middle School
, Fort Pierce's only designated special-needs shelter, where 200 evacuees could seek refuge.
Last fall and earlier this year, Dan McCarty teachers and parents filed 14 air-quality related complaints, but in his
tests Thursday, Althouse
found no signs of mold.
Back at Bayshore, walking around room 217, Althouse
pulled open a new cabinet under a sink built to child's height and spotted several small dots of mold, no bigger than corn kernels. He
was ready to pull out a moisture meter until he
discovered the problem by simple observation: A newly installed pipe was leaking, causing moisture that can lead to mold.A nearby teacher workroom had mold on the ceiling tiles. He
collected two air samples using a small compressor , no bigger than a toaster , trying to make sure the air is safe for students and evacuees.
Now numbering almost 300 since November, complaints from schools and district offices are a running record of health issues , like bloody noses and watery eyes.
Mariposa Elementary, the school with the highest number of complaints at 74, is also a potential shelter and is undergoing an almost $1.1 million overhaul that includes installation of car-sized dehumidification units expected to be finished this weekend.
While school and emergency officials monitor whether buildings protect residents from lashing rain and winds outside, Althouse
was hired to ensure facilities are free of the mold that has plagued many of the district's facilities since September's hurricanes.