School tests reveal moisture, not mold

A leak near a door at Westchase Elementary is condensation, not another mold problem.

By RODNEY THRASH, Times Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2007

WESTCHASE - Moisture found in a Westchase Elementary classroom on Friday was not harmful mold, air quality tests released this week showed.

"We have no issues," said Stephen Hegarty, a Hillsborough County schools spokesman.

On Friday, Westchase administrators discovered a leak near the door of a portable that housed 18 second-graders. They moved the students to the school's media center and sent a letter to parents.

Principal Joyce Wieland said the school suspected all along it was condensation from the air-conditioning system, "but wanted experts to come out" and confirm it. "Better safe than sorry," she said.

Since its January 1999 opening, Westchase has been plagued with leak and drainage problems due to construction and design defects.

In 2004, the northwest Hillsborough school was the subject of an WFTS-Ch. 28 investigation into toxic mold at the school. Some parents complained their children had respiratory problems during the school year, but district officials maintained the mold did not pose a health threat to students.

Later that year, the district spent $500,000 rebalancing air conditioners, installing new windows, dehumidifying select classrooms and repairing the roof. Administrators hailed the improvements as the end of the school's woes.

While the latest test results seem to clear the way for students to return to the classroom, Hegarty said not so fast. "We're going to go look it over before we move anybody," he said.

Still, Wieland said parents should not be alarmed by this incident. "We're not."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at 813 269-5303 or rthrash@sptimes.com.