Mold discovered at 2nd Portland elementary school

In the midst a political campaign over whether to use local bonds to pay for elementary school renovations, mold has been discovered at a second aging elementary school, district officials said Thursday.

The mold was discovered at Reiche Elementary School about three weeks ago, and a single office and several vents were sealed off, School Superintendent Xavier Botana said. A leaky pipe in a utility trench that goes around the perimeter of the building was the cause of the mold, he said.

The school began fixing the pipe and cleaning up the mold Wednesday night and the work is expected to be done soon. Workers will also replace flooring in the affected office and put in sensors to detect future leaks.

“There is no airborne mold in the building so I am confident that children are safe,” Botana said in a letter sent home to Reiche parents Thursday.

He said parents weren’t notified earlier, but he decided to send the note home because he learned other people planned to release the information. The campaign advocating for a $64 million four-school bond put out a news release about the Reiche school mold late Thursday.

“After we ascertained it was not airborne and no children at risk, we didn’t say anything until today,” Botana said. “I would prefer to be out in front of that (others releasing the information) instead of people learning about it on Facebook.”

Last Friday, parents at Longfellow Elementary School were notified that mold was discovered in hallway ceiling tiles.

Portland voters will decide next month how they want to fund renovations for as many as four elementary schools – Longfellow, Reiche, Lyseth and Presumpscot. One option on the Nov. 7 ballot is a $64 million bond to renovate all four schools. Another option is a $32 million bond to renovate only the Presumpscot and Lyseth schools as Portland officials pursue state funding to rebuild Reiche and Longfellow. Residents may vote yes or no on either question. If both receive a majority, the question with the most votes will be enacted.

“Coming right on the heels of finding mold at Longfellow School, learning that there’s also mold at Reiche feels like a one-two punch,” said Emily Figdor, a Reiche parent and leader of the four-school $64 million bond campaign. “Make no mistake, this is a direct result of our city neglecting the schools for two decades, chasing a false hope that the state will swoop in and one day fix our schools for us. Enough is enough: No more mold, asbestos, hazmat suits, or caution signs in our schools.”

Botana said the Longfellow mold was in an unbroken ceiling tile and did not appear to be airborne. A roofing contractor assessed the roof and fixed a leak that could have exacerbated the problem.

Air quality testing also took place on Monday to make sure the level of mold in the air is within acceptable levels. The results will be available within a week to 12 days. Mold can cause allergies and trigger coughing, wheezing and nasal stuffiness.

Botana said he thought it was unusual for two schools to both have mold problems,and said the Reiche situation was the first time in his year at the school where he was notified of a significant mold problem that required sealing off areas.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

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Twitter: noelinmaine