11 Head Start centers closed due to mold concerns in Pinellas County

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Nearly 1,000 young students who depend on Pinellas Head Start are getting an unplanned, extended holiday vacation.

Mold is forcing administrators to shut down Head Start centers across the county.

Classrooms were expected to reopen this week but the mold is keeping classrooms off-limits until it can be removed which could be some time next week, or longer.

“We did the testing and in the 11 centers, they each came back with some levels of mold.  It really varied. Some was really small.  Others, it was a little bit more advanced” said Amelia Fox, Chief of Staff at Lutheran Service Florida, that runs Head Start.

13 additional head start centers are in the clear. Parents will have to find alternatives for daycare from the 11 closed centers.

“We’re doing everything we can and we feel devastated by that aspect of it. It was a hard decision to close the schools because we knew it put a hardship on parents. But we felt like the safety of the kids was more important” said Fox.

Tests confirmed mold under kitchen sinks, bathroom areas, air-condition closets…anywhere you’d expect a higher level of moisture.

5 or 6 of the centers closed over the mold issue may open early next week. The others will take longer. In some centers, replacement cabinets, drywall pipes, vents, and ducts may be in order.

One problem head start is facing is the lack of room to move kids around as most of the centers are full.

“We feel bad for the inconvenience and I think that’s out biggest message. We understand this hardship and this decision wasn’t taken lightly.  Please do call if you have questions or concerns or anything we can help with” said Fox.

Before the mold-effected centers re-open, tests will be performed, the air will be cleared for 2 days, then additional testing will make sure it is safe.

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