Hundreds of Virginia students leaving dorm over elevated mold levels

Hundreds of students at Virginia Commonwealth University are leaving their dorm after elevated mold levels were detected.

Johnson Hall, which is located on the Richmond campus and houses first-year students, closed on Nov. 23 “out of an abundance of caution” so the university could address the mold levels, according to a statement from the school.

The university said it is working to address the mold situation “with appropriate remediation and cleaning.”

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Students must leave the dorm and return their keys by 4 p.m. on Friday. The residence hall will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

The closure is affecting more than 400 students, according to The Washington Post, and 315 have since been relocated as of Tuesday.

The university decided to close the dorm for the rest of the academic year after receiving complaints pertaining to humidity, moisture and mold, the Post reported, which led school officials to examine rooms, use dehumidifiers and recruit a contractor to test the rooms’ air qualities.

The university said in a statement that 41 of the 228 spaces it inspected in Johnson Hall as of Nov. 23 “were found to have an elevated spore count of mold when compared to the outside reference sample.”

Michael Cimis, the director of environmental health and safety at Virginia Commonwealth University, said mold in Johnson Hall “is everywhere,” according to the Post.

“Fungal spores are present in almost every environment and it grows when conditions are right, and that generally involves moisture or humidity,” Cimis said. “But when it does grow uncontrolled, it can become a problem.”

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The school said it will continue to monitor work requests for other dorms but urged residents “as a preventive measure” to keep windows in rooms closed to avoid additional moisture in the building and to keep thermostats on the auto setting so they work properly.

Students who choose to cancel their housing contracts for the rest of the semester will receive a prorate as of Nov. 28 and a $250 incentive credit on their student account, according to the university. Students who cancel their housing contracts for the rest of the year will receive a prorate and a $500 incentive credit.

Seventy students decided to cancel their contracts for the rest of the semester, for the spring semester or for both, according to the Post.

Cimis said the decision in response to the mold discovery was “difficult,” adding that the “proactive decision” was “made out of an abundance of caution.”