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Mold spoils move-in for Haven, Wood residents

Lilly Calvert/The Round Table

Lilly Calvert/The Round Table

Move-in day at Beloit College is usually one of the most exciting times of the year for students. However, that was not the case for 130 some students who expected to move into their dorms for the 2016 fall semester, as college maintenance discovered a moderate case of mold in the Haven and Wood Halls shortly before students arrived.

The mold was found in Haven the week before move-in, while it wasn’t discovered in Wood until Friday, August 19: the night before most students planned to move in on August 20. Instead of moving in as they anticipated, Haven and Wood residents were shuttled to the Garden Hotel and Conference Center in South Beloit, where the school managed to reserve rooms to serve as temporary housing for the displaced students. The lounge on the first floor of Blaisdell Hall was made available for storage in case students had items they didn’t want to take to the hotel.

“(The school) let Wood know on Friday night,” said Natalie Gallagher’19, a resident of Wood. “John (Winklemann) sent out an email around 9 p.m the night before move-in and told us we would be going to a hotel.”

“As we were getting ready to open rooms and transition from summer housing, we found some mold in Haven and a very little bit in Wood,” said Winklemann in his email to the affected students. “Haven was much more evident… We did not see the same things in Wood.”

Mold can come in many different forms, with some being much more dangerous than others. The college claimed that the mold found in Haven and Wood was not toxic, although it may have still caused symptoms for residents, particularly those with mold allergies. The mold likely arose due to extreme humidity and the buildings’ air conditionings being frequently turned on and off throughout the summer months. The dorms are also two of the older buildings on campus, as Wood and Haven both began housing students in 1927. Neither has been renovated since the late 1980s.

“We saw some issues but not a lot on the surface,” Winklemann said. “We found more issues under the tiles around the air conditioners.”

Remediation of the buildings started with the removal of ceiling tiles and pipe insulation, which were the source of the problem, according to Winklemann. All spaces were cleansed using HEPA air filtration devices. As a precautionary measure, all room and furniture surfaces were cleaned as well. Once remediation was complete, damaged materials were replaced to prepare for the students’ return.

The school attempted to make it as convenient as possible for students to attend their classes and other on-campus activities despite their unexpected move to South Beloit. The Garden Hotel is just a five-minute drive from campus, but most students didn’t have their own means of transportation, so Beloit had to provide for them: a school bus shuttled between the hotel and the wall at the college every 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Even though this was probably the most efficient route of transportation, students reported that the bus wasn’t always on schedule, causing them to be late to their classes, practices, or other commitments on occasion. The bus also varied in how long it waited for students at each stop.

“It was a bit frustrating. It would have been more convenient if there had been more of a schedule,” said Gallagher. “There was some stress and anxiety at the hotel of not knowing when the bus would be there and how long it would take to get to and from campus.”

The whole process took more than a week, but both halls were eventually rid of the mold, with Haven residents finally gaining access to their dorms on the night of Friday, August 26. Students living in Wood had a significantly longer wait; they were unable to start moving in until the following Wednesday.

“I know this is not the way everyone expected to start the year and I apologize for the inconvenience,” Winklemann said. “It is challenging to get settled on campus when you can’t access your regular room, but we need to put health and safety first.”

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