About 160 students and staff at West Elementary School will be moved to a new location in the wake of the Grand Forks School Board vote Wednesday, Feb. 12, to declare an emergency situation for the remediation of mold in the school.

At a special meeting, Chris Arnold, the district’s buildings and grounds director, told board members about high levels of mold found in certain areas of West Elementary, which make evacuation of all students and staff necessary.

The air quality in the school is safe, but mold in a tunnel and library at the school exceeded acceptable limits, Arnold said.

About 90 students in kindergarten through grade 5 and about 30 school staff members will likely be relocated to a local church building.

School district administrators have talked with pastors and priests about available space and have visited two of three preferred sites. They plan to visit the third one Thursday, Feb. 13, said Associate Superintendent Jody Thompson, who declined to name the churches because their councils have not been consulted and one site has not yet been visited.

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It is unclear at this point if the roughly 40 students in the early childhood special education program at West will be moved to the same location as the other West students or to one of the district’s other schools, Thompson said.

A meeting with West parents is planned for 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at West Elementary School, he said. At that time, he hopes to identify the new location the West students and staff will occupy, he said.

How long they will be in the new space is not known yet, because the extent of the remediation work that needs to be done is not yet known. It could be weeks or extend through the end of the school year, Thompson said.

Members of the West staff were informed of the situation at a meeting with Arnold and his colleagues on Wednesday afternoon, just before the School Board meeting.

The board’s vote for a declaration of an emergency situation allows the school district to contract on a project without seeking bids, in keeping with the North Dakota Century Code.

All reports of building inspections are available on the school district website, Arnold said.

The cost of the mold remediation project is not yet known; it will depend on what workers find when walls are opened, Arnold said.

Similar work is needed in some other schools that have been damaged by extensive rains last fall.

In the recent past, two such emergency declarations have been approved by the School Board -- one in September for the repair of an elevator shaft at Red River High School and the other in December 2018 for the repair and replacement of boilers at Grand Forks Central High School and Schroeder Middle School.