Parents and students react after mold abruptly shuts down VCU dormitory

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – High levels of mold abruptly shut down a dormitory at Virginia Commonwealth University on Tuesday. Johnson Hall students have been notified of the sudden closure and asked to leave the office the same day.

From now on, the university says the closure will last for the rest of the academic year, leaving some students scrambling to find a place to live and store their belongings.

Johnson Hall is VCU’s oldest dormitory and houses only incoming freshmen. Several concerned parents and students have sent photographs to 8News showing what appears to be green and black mold on surfaces like window blinds, water coolers, sinks, air vents and in corners.

Mold, damp and damp issues at Johnson Hall were raising concerns for residents and parents, like Becky Norris.

“It’s been a big concern for a lot of parents,” Norris said.

Norris is one of many to speak about his first year daughter’s experience after her health changed last month. Norris’ daughter asked that we not identify her face or name, but share her experience.

“I started feeling sick in October,” the freshman said. “I had really bad headaches, I had a sore throat, I was coughing and I was losing my voice.”

She goes on to say that at first she thought it was a cold, but after two weeks and with no relief, the VCU freshman went to Patient First where she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection. Norris and his daughter think it was caused by mold.

Norris said she raised her concerns with VCU that her daughter’s dormitory had been tested for mold and a dehumidifier had been installed in the room.

Another concerned parent spoke to 8News and said her daughter lives in Johnson and believes the mold is also causing health issues. The student described symptoms of shortness of breath, coughing and sinus problems. The students said they went to the doctor four times and were treated for an allergic reaction.

The parent also provided an email to 8News writing to VCU responding to the mold issues on Oct. 1.

At the end of October, the 27th, VCU sent an e-mail to students after growing concerns. He said the university hired an independent contractor to test the air quality.

“To date, we have inspected a total of 78 spaces throughout the building and 7 of those spaces were found to have high mold spore counts compared to the exterior benchmark sample. We have already contacted residents whose individual rooms had unacceptable air quality levels with relocation information. Areas of high humidity or humidity were also identified during the inspection and are currently being addressed with additional dehumidifiers in these spaces.

The University also said it would begin testing in other areas of the building on November 1.

In a statement to 8News on Tuesday, VCU said, “We are not aware of any confirmed reports of health concerns related to mold issues at Johnson Hall, although we encourage any students who are concerned to contact Student Health or their physician. first resort.”

“This mold didn’t start with these kids getting sick like this overnight,” Norris told 8News. “They knew it when they opened that dorm and left those kids in that dorm in August.”

November tests, according to the university, showed that 41 of 228 spaces inspected had high mold spore counts compared to the outdoor benchmark sample.

An email sent to students on Tuesday said recent test results were returned on Monday, and when officials found out, they immediately notified students and closed the dorm the next day. In the email, VCU said safety was its top priority and it apologized for the disruption.

Many parents and students 8News spoke to would like to see Johnson Hall demolished and a new dorm built, but VCU says they will do the proper cleaning to get rid of the mold.

The closure has come as a shock to freshmen, and some are trying to figure out or wait for housing arrangements, not knowing where they will end up. Once students receive notification of departure on Tuesday, they are not allowed to go inside until they receive direct communication from the university to collect their belongings. All personal items must be cleared by December 3.

8News has seen teams of Belfor parked beside and near Johnson Hall on Wednesday. According to the company’s website, they specialize in emergency restoration, including mold.

Norris says the situation is mishandled. She said she was lucky her daughter was near her home, but what about out-of-state students.

“VCU is not cheap. We send our children to a school. We expect the best things, the best quality for our kids and I don’t feel like we get that from VCU,” Norris said.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, VCU hosted a virtual meeting for students and parents to voice concerns and learn about housing options. Students had the option of canceling their housing contract or being relocated to another on-campus housing facility, pending vacation, or transferred to other alternative housing options.

The students hope to learn about other housing options on Friday.

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