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St. Mary’s College of Maryland began moving about 350 students out of two dormitories this week because of lingering mold problems following late summer’s heavy rains. Some students will be temporarily housed in other areas on campus while more than 200 will stay in three off-campus hotels.

Chip Jackson, associate vice president for planning and facilities, said the college is working on a plan with construction contractors now for the mold remediation and said it would be “at least a couple weeks” before students move back into the residence halls. He said he hopes the work will be done before the end of the semester, which is in mid-December.

“Any institution will have a mold issue here, a mold issue there,” Jackson said, but this systemic mold problem is so severe that it is forcing the evacuations of both Prince George and Caroline residence halls. Students in those dormitories were instructed this week to pack up all of their belongings to move out.

Jackson said the college is still working on tabulating costs associated with the relocation of students and mold removal. There are contingency funds in the budget to cover such unforseen emergencies, he said.

In an Oct. 18 letter posted on the college’s website, President Joseph Urgo said the college determined Monday it would need to move 191 students from the two residence halls, including all students on the first and second floors. Since the letter, the college determined students living on the third floors of both dormitories, an additional 159 students, would also need to move out. Mold on the third floors, although not as prevalent as lower in the residence halls, also needs to be addressed, college officials determined.

All students in the two residence halls are expected to move, either to an on-campus residence hall or hotel, by today, Friday.

“We have found our experience with mold in the residence halls this semester extremely frustrating, as have other colleges and universities in rain-soaked areas this season,” Urgo wrote. “Hurricane Irene and subsequent, prolonged damp and rainy weather exacerbate mold conditions in these residence halls.”

The college did some cleaning of the residence halls over the fall break earlier this month but found continued evidence of mold. The type of mold appears to be of the penicillium/aspergillus group, according to the college’s website.

Remediation plans include removing all affected materials in both buildings, including the ceilings and insulation. The rooms and furniture will then be cleaned and vacuumed following protocols established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I sincerely regret the inconvenience students will experience,” Urgo wrote. “We are working quickly to finalize plans that will detail the moves of the students and the resources that will be available to them.”

An update on the college’s website Thursday said there are mold problems being addressed in the Queen Anne residence hall, as well, but that students will not be displaced.

About 75 students from Prince George and Caroline residence halls will be moved to other areas on campus, Jackson said. The college also put out a request to faculty, students and others associated with the college to take in students temporarily. “People have volunteered,” Jackson said.

More than 200 students will be moved to three hotels two in St. Mary’s County and one across the Patuxent River in Solomons. The college is expecting to run a shuttle service to and from the hotels and to provide security at the hotels for student safety, Jackson said.

“The safety of our students both on campus and off campus is our highest priority,” he said.

The college administration planned to meet with students and parents Thursday evening and again Friday afternoon at a town hall meeting. “Everyone at the college, the president of the college included, are deeply sorry this has occurred,” Jackson said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com

For updates

St. Mary’s College of Maryland is posting updates on the mold problems that are closing two residence halls at www.smcm.edu/residencelife/moldupdates.