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Mold holds hidden danger for community college

Some students at Kansas City Kansas Community College have found themselves locked out of their student housing, thanks to mold. KCKCC leases three apartment buildings in the complex to provide campus housing to its students. Residents, many of whom are student-athletes, say they began to get sick after they moved into the buildings last month.

Students reported that mold covered their vents, mainly in their bathrooms. They complained to KCKCC officials, who brought in an environmental services contractor to evaluate the mold. The KCKCC contractor identified mold infestations in all three buildings the community college leases. KCKCC’s contractor also determined that the mold infestation was much worse than initially appeared to be.

KCKCC ordered students living in the Royal Ridge Apartments to turn in their keys and vacate the premises immediately. College officials say they acted because the building’s owner did nothing after being notified of the mold and student illnesses.

The college advised local students (those with nearby permanent residences) to return home for rest of the semester. KCKCC also told students that it might be able to provide accommodations to the displaced students in a new housing complex under construction. However, those facilities will not open in mid-2022. The school is renting hotel space for students who do not have a local permanent residence. KCKCC is also paying for transportation, food and laundry services for students living in hotels.

WCC’s history with mold remediation

If you look at WCC’s Master Plan, it calls for the construction of a hotel (or student housing). In either case, the WCC Trustees do not want to manage the facilities. They want to own the property and have someone else take care of the day-to-day operations.

At first blush, you might say this the exact opposite situation. In KCKCC’s case, the community college does not own the buildings. As such, it does not have much leverage when the building owner failed to respond to student complaints. KCKCC’s only option was to displace its students immediately for their own health and safety.

In WCC’s case, the Master Plan says it intends to own whatever type of housing it ends up with. Big difference! WCC can take care of its own buildings, right? Well, about that….

If history is any guide, WCC remediated a massive mold problem in the LA building during its last renovation. But employees in LA had complained about mold in their offices and got no response from the College. In fact, the College acted only after an employee paid for environmental testing out-of-pocket to positively identify the mold. Only when WCC could no longer deny the issue did it take steps to fix it.

If WCC won’t act on the complaints of its faculty, how likely is it to act when students (or overnight guests) complain?

Photo Credit: Jason Jones , via Flickr