ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — Teachers at a North Carolina school returned to work Thursday, getting ready to welcome students back on Monday. 

What You Need To Know

  • A microbial growth or mold temporarily closed West Rowan Middle School, which prompted students to switch to virtual learning

  • A family said that while previous experiences with remote learning made the process easier, they still faced some challenges with the online format

  • Teachers returned to the school Thursday, and students are expected to go back Monday

West Rowan Middle School started the school year on Aug. 10, but it temporarily shut down the building on Aug. 22 after test results confirmed a microbial growth or mold in the heating and air conditioning system. 

According to the Rowan-Salisbury School System, specialized contractors have removed and discarded ceiling tiles, and dehumidified floors and walls. In addition, the district said they also cleaned the HVAC units and ductwork. 

Students including sixth-grader Jaylen Oliver have been doing virtual learning since Aug. 23. 

The closure upset Jaylen’s grandmother, Lisa Oliver.

“My first reaction is why they didn’t catch it during the summer break?” Oliver said. 

In a statement, the district said custodial staff noticed mold before the start of the school year and that was cleaned back then. The temporary closure of the school happened after staff noticed mold again on Aug. 17 and additional testing was initiated. 

Oliver stayed home through Sept. 9, which was the initial date given for the remote learning period. 

“I took two weeks off and we did as much as we could,” she said. 

She and Jaylen reviewed lessons together, did homework, and attended teachers' virtual office hours and tutoring. 

Oliver said remote learning during the pandemic helped them prepare to switch to an online learning format. They completed social studies and science assignments with ease but struggled with math. 

“I couldn’t help him with the math,” she said. 

According to Oliver, Jaylen, who has ADHD, thrives with in-person learning when he receives additional support. 

“He has just such a hard time learning through virtual and remote learning,” Oliver said. 

Jaylen also prefers the in-person interaction. 

“Sometimes, I need teachers to help me because I get confused and anxious,” he said. 

This week as Oliver returned to work, Jaylen did virtual learning on his own. He told her he had challenges joining a Zoom class because he didn’t have the login information the school sent to her. 

Both Jaylen and Oliver hope these issues are now behind them. 

But Oliver still worries about the impact of the temporary closure on Jaylen's learning. 

"Getting left behind from other kids, from other schools because they are not on the same learning track,” she said. 

After she shared her concerns, Jaylen's counselor told her students will receive help and additional resources to get caught up. 

Oliver is confident the mold issue will be resolved and the building will be safe for Jaylen to return to the classroom Monday. 

The district said it had not received information or reports of students getting sick. 

Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris released a statement about the situation. 

“It is perfectly normal for a few mold spores to be present in the air and on surfaces both indoors and outdoors. All molds have the potential to cause different and potentially negative health effects. I would be most concerned about an individual who is immunocompromised, but I would say the same of COVID, Flu, or other potential irritants for a body,” Harris said. 

For more information about the closure, click here.