“The Public Schools of Robeson County will be closed Monday, October 8, 2018 to Wednesday, October 10, 2018 for students and most school employees. Environmental testing, remediation, abatement, repairs, general maintenance and cleaning are all delaying the first day back for students following Hurricane Florence. The warm and wet conditions (high humidity) are fueling mold growth in vacant classrooms, schools, auditoriums and district facilities. While mold was caught and cleaned in some cases due to the swift action and proactive measures of maintenance employees and custodians, portions of some schools may still be uninhabitable as inspections and remediation efforts push forward.
The environmental firm we are working with will continue their work this weekend in our schools. Once remediations and repairs are completed in schools/facilities, there is retesting that must take place.*
The district has not received mold test results as expected due to the backlog at the laboratories. Therefore, district leaders cannot permit staff and students (not involved in the testing and remediation) to enter affected areas of schools or district offices until the results are returned, examined and favorable. The health and safety of our students and staff is our first and foremost priority and will remain such with all decision-making. We want to be open and transparent as things progress.
Our goal is to open schools as soon as possible. Board members and district administrators will inform the community of any progress in the current situation next week. We will continue to communicate updates about the cleanup and when the schools will reopen via social media, email, phone messages and local news media.
We have received many calls regarding mold and its impact on PSRC employees who have been asked to return to work. At this time:
1. Employees who work in schools that we do not have results for will not be required to report to work on Monday, October 8, 2018. In those schools where we have results, principals may contact staff members if assistance is needed. Principals must decide which staff members they need to come in to assist with the preparation and reopening of schools. It will vary across the district. (School administrators and custodians must be available at all times. They will be involved in the inspection, testing and clean up phases.)
2. Central office employees temporarily assigned to Lumberton Junior High School (LJHS) will continue following their regular schedules. Lumberton Junior High School has been tested and portions of the school utilized by CO staff have been officially cleared and are safe for occupancy. Finance will still operate in Pembroke, NC on the campus of UNCP. All departments located in the 74 warehouse will report to work and follow normal schedules. This includes central office child nutrition employees.
3. We are working closely with employees responsible for inspecting and cleaning schools such as maintenance staff, custodians and school administrators. The goal is to limit their exposure to mold and mold spores. PSRC employees know how to effectively clean up small cases of mold found in schools. Large scale projects are being addressed by professional firms.
4. Outdoor sports activities are still going on as scheduled. Most of the teams practice outside. Most gyms and locker rooms are unaffected and available. This has given our students and communities a sense of normalcy during the recovery process.
Overview of where we are:
1. Child Nutrition has replenished the food that was used or discarded due to the storm and the cafeterias are equipped and ready to operate.
2. The Transportation department has reported that the majority of roads for the buses have been cleared with the exception of Highway 904 and Fairley Road and alternative routes have been established for those that require it.
3. Technology has been restored in all of the schools including phone communication and internet access.
4. There has been a widespread concern over the loss of instructional time that our students have experienced. This week, the NC General Assembly voted to allow school districts to waive 20 school days. The Public Schools of Robeson County will have missed 20 as of Tuesday, October 9, 2018.
Various teachers and administrators throughout the district have communicated and shared resources and activities for students to explore while at home to keep their minds stimulated as they await the return to school.
5. The Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability (CIA) department released different activities for students and their families via the Public Schools of Robeson County website and Facebook page. (Continue to Learn and Grow during Flo)
There have also been plans devised to take advantage of the time that remains in the school year to make it successful for staff and students.
6. The Public Schools of Robeson County and Edmentum Online Learning have partnered to provide free access to Study Island and Ed Options Academy for grades K-12. Beginning today K–8 principals will attend a webinar to inform them how to use Study Island for their students over the next few weeks. Additionally, students in grades 9-12 have the option to enroll in Ed Options Academy and work on two courses through October 31, 2018.
7. The Public Schools of Robeson County will attend a briefing next week to receive an overview of the Public Assistance program/process, any event-specific details, and instructions on how to submit information using the online portal. FEMA will then begin conducting Exploratory Calls with applicants to begin discussing damages and schedule a Recovery Scoping Meetings (RSM) to continue to identify all eligible damages and costs for Applicants and begin project formulation for reimbursement.
8. We are reviewing the Early College calendar and schedules. We are considering various options to return staff and students to the campus of Robeson Community College.
*Testing for mold can be done through surface sampling and air tests. The district is relying primarily on air tests, which compare the amount of mold present in indoor air versus outdoor air. There are no federal regulatory standards set for mold and indoor air quality. Generally, indoor mold types should be similar to, and airborne concentrations should be no greater than, those found outdoors and in non-compliant areas.” Dr. Shanita Wooten