Many of the classrooms in Kromrey Middle School — built in 1963 — don't have windows and most aren't air conditioned.
So when mold was found in four classrooms, a hallway and the cafeteria last month, just before the first day of school, it wasn't a complete shock.
"It certainly was one of the problems that we talked about when we went to referendum in April 2009," said Michelle Larson, spokeswoman for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District of a proposal that was voted down to rebuild part of the aging school.
The building's original construction allows condensation to occur, especially near baseboards, she said.
Voters rejected the $33,980,000 referendum to expand and rebuild Kromrey to accommodate 900 students on the same property.
Larson said it's too early to know if the mold incident there will push the district to try for another referendum.
The middle school is expected to reopen Friday, provided air quality samples are within safe and acceptable levels. The district hasn't decided if students will need to make up the school days, Larson said.
But Middleton-Cross Plains wasn't the only district dealing with mold this summer.
Madison's Memorial High School, Kennedy and Thoreau elementary schools and Hoyt administration building all had "very, very small scale" mold problems, said Ken Syke, spokesman for the Madison School District.
The mold was cleaned up before school started Wednesday.
"It's not like it's been rampant," he said. "Our building service people feel it's definitely related to the extensive moisture this summer."
Mold also was found in carpets at Taylor Prairie Elementary School in Cottage Grove in the Monona Grove School District.
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The carpets were professionally steam-cleaned and dried with commercial dehumidifiers, said Superintendent Craig Gerlach, adding the problem was resolved by the start of school.
High dew points
According to the National Weather Service, Madison had its third highest dew point this August in the last 63 years. July had the sixth highest.
"Temperatures were also above normal for both months," said Penny Zabel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The weather service doesn't measure humidity, but does track the dew point, which is the amount of moisture in the air. Humidity is calculated using dew point and temperature.
Jon Woods, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UW-Madison, said a building that's been closed up all summer without air conditioning is going to have really high humidity and "could certainly foster this sort of (mold) problem," he said.
But mold isn't just a problem in old buildings without air conditioning or with water damage. It also can emerge in new construction built "too tight" in an effort to prevent energy loss, Woods said.
It's important to keep in mind that "there is mold all around us," he said. "You take a deep breath right now and you'd probably inhale some."
Other schools closed
Over the years, mold has closed schools throughout Dane County.
In 2002, officials in Madison closed the city's newest elementary school, Chavez Elementary, after complaints of illnesses from teachers and students. Mold was found behind vinyl baseboards and the school was put back into use after a $1.2 million cleaning.
Also in 2002, a number of other schools around the state were closed because of mold problems, including Yahara Elementary in DeForest. The school district spent about $2 million on a cleaning that included replacement of carpet with tile and a new ventilation system.
"We have not had any other problems since that happened," DeForest spokeswoman Debbie Brewster said Thursday.