Durango High School will remain closed today because of air-quality concerns caused by piles of hay that were found spread throughout the school’s common areas Monday.
Air-quality tests that were taken Monday afternoon showed that areas of the school where the hay was found had mold spore counts that were four times higher than the recommended levels, said Durango School District Superintendent Keith Owen.
Since those tests were taken, cleaning crews have brought in air scrubbers, replaced air filters, wiped down walls and scrubbed the floors of the building, Owen said.
To ensure the cleaning process was effective, school officials decided to have the air tested again this morning and will receive those results tonight, when they will make a decision about whether to resume school Friday, he said.
“We need to do more testing to verify that the elevated readings are brought back down,” he said.
The test samples will be taken by a courier to and from Denver today to make sure they are back in time for school officials to make a decision, he said.
If the second test results come back with elevated mold spore readings, the school will be closed for additional cleaning Friday, he said.
“The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority,” Owen said.
According to the high school’s records, nearly 10 percent of DHS’ student body has respiratory health issues, Owen said. Since Monday, at least eight 9-R employees have sought medical attention after helping with initial hay cleanup efforts, he said.
According to estimates provided by the cleaning company and the insurance adjustor, cleanup costs could total more than $100,000, Owen said.
High school administrators are waiting to decide whether students will have to make up the days of school that were lost this week at the end of the school year, DHS Principal Diane Lashinsky said. Administrators’ three biggest considerations will be to make sure there is enough time left in the school year for teachers to finish their instruction, for students to prepare for exams and for graduation activities to take place, Lashinsky said.
The school is nearing the minimum number of hours the state sets for students to be in class, she said.
School officials still don’t know how the pranksters entered the high school.
“There are a variety of ways they could have gained access. It could have been through a window or a door pried open or they had access to a staff member’s key card used to enter the building,” Owen said.
The school doesn’t have an alarm system, but it does have a security system that includes surveillance cameras, Lashinsky said.
“Our hope is that those responsible will come forward by themselves,” she said.