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Spring and Summer weather conditions complicate ongoing building maintenance

Fort Smith has experienced record rainfall this August. A total of 11.13 inches of rain has fallen in our area this month, which is “more than any August since 1890 and 8.54 inches higher than the average for the month,” according to an August 29 Southwest Times Record article.

These wet conditions have persisted throughout the spring and summer and contributed to elevated levels of humidity inside FSPS buildings. The age of some buildings and air-conditioning systems have also been contributing factors to challenges that we are seeing in isolated sections of buildings in different parts of the district. Our Facilities team continues to do an outstanding job maintaining our buildings.

Specific issues have included damage to a limited number of district-issued technology devices. During the annual process of getting backpacks ready for student use, some were left damp and stacked on freshly cleaned and damp carpet. Several musical instruments at one campus, Darby Junior High School, were damaged. Affected items like these have been removed from use for repair or replacement as needed. Fortunately, the technology devices that are being replaced were six years old and were scheduled for replacement.

To prevent recurrence of moisture-related issues, maintenance teams are cleaning areas thoroughly. Dehumidifiers have been added to areas with elevated humidity, and temperature set points have been adjusted to match the particular needs of each building. The FSPS Facilities Department is also working with a moisture control expert who is a Certified Indoor Air Quality Professional to promptly address issues as district staff members are made aware of them.

Status reports for individual affected schools follow:

Barling Elementary School
Water entered Barling Elementary School in several places during the flash flooding in late August. ServiceMaster removed the water in affected areas and the facilities team cleaned the building once this work was complete. Because the moisture had the potential to cause further problems, the district facilities team had the air quality tested. These reports found no concerns.

Euper Lane Elementary School
Euper Lane is partly built into a hill and has a history of indoor moisture issues. Following reports of conditions that could promote the growth of mold, several rooms and connecting duct work were thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before school started. Subsequent testing indicated that air quality met safety standards and fell within normal ranges. Since school began, testing has continued to demonstrate that the air quality has met these important standards. Improvements have been the result of an aggressive plan to address moisture issues. At this time duct work throughout the building has been cleaned and sterilized. HVAC units have also been cleaned and fully charged to ensure optimum performance levels. Drainage systems have also been upgraded to remove and displace water.

Carnall Elementary School
In early July, the facilities team responded to reports of growth on a few chairs. Staff cleaned and sterilized the chairs. Since July, there have been no further reports of problems. Air samples have verified that air quality data is well within the band of appropriate safety standards. Additionally, the HVAC personnel calibrated thermostats to ensure units are functioning within normal ranges, and the duct work in those areas is scheduled for cleaning and sterilization.

Morrison Elementary School
When high levels of humidity were reported at Morrison, the district facilities team in consultation with HPM discovered that the new HVAC units at Morrison were not functioning within the building-wide cooling system. Subsequently, contractors assigned to the Morrison project identified the problem, ordered the necessary parts and made the repairs. When they verified that the system was working properly, they ran a complete dehumidification cycle throughout the building. That system is working as it should, and contractors are monitoring conditions.

Darby Junior High School
There have been ongoing challenges with the old chiller system at Darby. Recent high heat and humidity overwhelmed the cooling capacity of the older system which resulted in higher than normal temperatures within the building. The district facilities team replaced the electronic controller for the chiller, and since this replacement, the humidity levels and temperatures have improved. We are working with the construction managers to find a comprehensive long-term solution, while we also continue to address immediate challenges.

Contact Information
Thank you for your patience as we continue to address needs and concerns. Our first priority is to ensure the safety of FSPS children and staff, and we are committed to implementing a long-term, efficient, and comprehensive set of strategies to control moisture in our buildings more effectively. This year’s weather has prompted the development and implementation of indoor air quality management and equipment storage procedures that will be especially valuable going into next summer.

If you have concerns about moisture in a school building, please contact Shawn Shaffer, Supervisor of Facilities, at facilities@fortsmithschools.org or call 479 785 2501, ext. 1236. Please include your concern, the building or area of concern, your name and contact information so that we may follow up, if necessary, with additional questions.