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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will close Laurel Hall for the remainder of the school year to effectively clean the building after mold was found in some rooms.

Laurel Hall is an upper-division student housing apartment complex that houses 586 students.

Laurel Hall residents will be continuously updated as new information is received. Housing staff also are available in Laurel Hall to answer questions.

 

OCTOBER 19 UPDATES

Have all Laurel Hall residents received housing assignments?

More than 400 students have received new housing assignments and many have begun moving out of Laurel Hall. About a dozen students are waiting for their assignments and should have those in the next few days.

More than 100 students opted out of continuing their University Housing contracts.

The university has currently contracted with five apartment complexes to house affected students, as well as placing some students in other residence halls on campus.

What did the Laurel Hall report find?

Key data points from the Laurel Hall report include:

  • Samples were collected in 46 of the 313 apartments. The sample size—15 percent—is representative and statistically significant of the total number of apartments in the building, according to Sobek.
  • EAQP collected surface and air samples and found that:
    • 56.5 percent of surface samples collected in the 46 rooms tested positive for mold.
    • 87.2 percent of all air samples collected in the 46 rooms showed levels of mold that are elevated when compared to outdoor air samples collected at the same time.
  • A microscopic analysis of surface and air samples showed Aspergillus- and Penicillium-like spores. These are round-shaped mold spores of about 2–5 micrometers in size.

What does “elevated” mean when it comes to test performed?

There are currently no national guidelines or standards for the acceptable number of mold spores present in indoor air. The industry standard for professionals is to compare samples collected from the interior of a building to the outside control sample.

What tests were conducted in the other residence halls?

Two types of tests conducted were for Aspergillus and Penicillium—the types found in Laurel that can cause respiratory symptoms—and for Stachybotrys chartarum—often called black mold.

Based on the analysis, the university has no plans to relocate residents in any of these residence halls.

Key results from the testing in the other residence halls include:

  • Testing of other residence halls indicated seven rooms among the 367 tested with elevated levels of Aspergillus and Penicillium when compared to outdoor air samples. Those rooms were in Reese Hall, Hess Hall, North Carrick Hall, Massey Hall, and Clement Hall.
  • In four rooms of the 367 tested, Stachybotrys chartarum was detected in the air at a low level. Those rooms were in Brown Hall, North Carrick Hall, and Stokely Hall. Of the 367 rooms tested, two rooms in Reese Hall registered elevated levels of the Stachybotrys chartarum spores compared to levels found in outdoor air samples collected at the same time.
  • A retest of Reese Hall showed Stachybotrys chartarum was not detectable.
  • Housing staff are in the process of reinspecting all rooms that showed elevated levels.

 

OCTOBER 16 UPDATES

Have students moved out of Laurel Hall? When will it close?

University Housing began assigning students to off-campus properties on October 12. Most Laurel Hall residents have received their assignments and many have started to move into their new apartments.

Approximately 70 students are waiting for an assignment. Once contracts with all the off-campus properties are finalized, University Housing will contact the remaining unassigned students and provide check-out and moving instructions.

Because the university is still negotiating contracts with off-campus properties, the timeline to check out of Laurel Hall has not yet been determined. Once all students have been assigned, University Housing will identify a check-out date and communicate it to students.

 

OCTOBER 9 UPDATES

How will the students be placed?

University Housing will prioritize the student’s confirmation date and their preference in vicinity as submitted in their opt-in form to assign students to an off-campus property. University Housing will make every effort to meet student preferences, but it is not guaranteed due to availability of fully vacant off-campus apartments.

When will they move out?

The university is negotiating contracts with several off-campus properties. Once contracts have been finalized, University Housing will assign students to apartments. University Housing will email students their new assignment with moving instructions.

May a student decline an assignment?

Once an off-campus assignment has been made, students may not decline the assignment and will be held to the terms of their University Housing contract.

Do students have a deadline to check out?

Since the university is still negotiating contracts with off-campus properties, the timeline to check out of Laurel Hall has not yet been determined.  Once the contracts are finalized and assignments are made, University Housing will identify a check-out date and communicate it to students.

Will students be placed with their requested roommates?

University Housing will make every effort to keep roommates together, but it is not guaranteed due to availability of fully vacant off-campus apartments.

 

OCTOBER 8 UPDATES

What about students’ personal belongings?

University Housing will provide professional laundering services for personal clothing, bedding, and textiles.

To use this service, students should:

  • Inventory all clothing, bedding, and textiles they want cleaned.
  • Place the items in plastic bags and tie them shut.
  • Affix a label to each bag with the following information:
    • First and Last Name
    • Laurel Hall Apt #
    • New Apartment Complex Name
    • New Apt #
    • Bag # x of X
    • # of Items in Bag
  • When students check out of Laurel Hall, they should take their bags, a copy of the inventory sheet, and a copy of their contact information to the Laurel Hall front desk. For opt-in residents, laundered items will be delivered to the students’ new residence. For opt-out students, housing staff will contact students to pick up laundered belongings.

University Housing will supply bags, labels, and inventory sheets. The process will take 3-4 days from the time of pick-up.

What assistance will the university provide to help students move?

For opt-in residents, University Housing is offering free moving assistance through a professional moving company.

Moving supplies, including boxes, packing tape, labels, packing wrap, and cleaning wipes, are available at the Laurel Hall front desk.

To prepare belongings for relocation:

  • All clothing or textiles should be cleaned prior to packing. Hard-surface items should be cleaned using cleaning wipes.
  • All items to be relocated by the moving company MUST be packed in boxes or other hard-sided containers with the exception of very large items. Secure the bottom seam of boxes with packing tape. All containers must be closed with openings sealed or secured.
  • Students are encouraged to move any extremely fragile and/or valuable items themselves. Electronic of fragile items must be securely packed in the original manufacturer’s box or an equivalent.
  • Identifying labels MUST be affixed to ALL items be relocated by the moving company. Pre-printed labels will be provided by University Housing staff as part of the check-out process.
  • Students should Place items to be relocated together in the living room of their Laurel Hall apartment, separated by resident.

Once the resident has checked out of Laurel Hall, the moving company will deliver personal belongings to the new apartment within 48 hours.

 

OCTOBER 5 UPDATES

How do students ask for special accommodation needs?

Email Richard Swearingen, associate director for administrative services, at rswearing@utk.edu with details of your accommodation needs.

By what date should students have the opt-in/opt-out form completed?

To have the most consideration for students’ preferences, students need to complete the form by noon Monday, October 8. All opt-in students will be provided housing.

If a student opts in and gets an assignment off campus that they don’t like, can they then opt out and be released from their contract?

Students need to submit their opt-in or opt-out choice by noon Monday, October 8, indicating their preference in vicinity to campus. If a student wants to be in a specific off-campus property, the student needs to pursue their own housing option and opt out of the University Housing contract. After assignments are made, the student will not be released from the new assignment.

If a student has opted in on the form, but now wants to opt out, what should they do?

Students cannot change their opt-in/opt-out selection past noon Monday, October 8. Up until that point, students can change their selection via the online form emailed to Laurel Hall residents on Thursday, October 4. University Housing staff will reach out as needed when there are questions about residents’ choices.

If students opt in, will they have to sign a lease with the off-campus complex?

No, the student’s contract is with University Housing and is effective until May 11, 2019. Students may be required to agree to the apartment’s rules and regulations.

If a student has already reserved a space in an off-campus complex but now wants to opt in, will University Housing contact the complex on my behalf?

No, University Housing cannot make arrangements on students’ behalf.

What if a student decides to move out until the options are provided?

If a student decides to move out while waiting for next steps, they should follow check-out procedures through the Laurel Hall front desk.

Will students be refunded in any capacity?

Students who opt out will receive a full refund of fall 2018 rent. Students who opt in will receive a 50 percent refund of fall 2018 rent.

How will students receive their refund?

The refund amount will be posted to students’ account within 10 business days of their assignment confirmation.

Will students have to pay for utilities? 

Students’ housing contracts will fully include utilities, internet, and cable at no additional cost.

Will students be able to keep the same roommate(s)?

Student preferences will be taken into consideration, but there is no guarantee they will be placed in a specific apartment complex or with their current roommate(s).

What will happen with parking? What about dining?

We are working through the details of parking with the complexes and with UT Parking and Transit Services. On-site parking at the off-campus complexes is not guaranteed; parking accommodations will vary complex to complex. Parking and Transit Services will work directly with Laurel Hall residents to address questions regarding current parking permits. Requests for changes to current UT parking permits can be sent to parking@utk.edu, and the staff will address parking needs and changes on an individual basis.

Questions about existing meal plans can be answered by UT Dining by calling 865-974-4111 or emailing utdining@utk.edu.

Additionally, parking and dining staff will be available to handle questions in person from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, October 8, through Friday, October 12, in the Laurel Hall lobby.

If a student doesn’t have a vehicle, will this factor into their placement?

The complexes under consideration are either in close proximity to campus, provide transportation to campus, or are on a city bus route.

Will current Laurel Hall residents have priority to live in Laurel for the 2019–20 year during room selection in the spring?

Students will still have the ability to participate in Same Hall, Same Room or Same Hall, Different Room Selection to maintain their space in Laurel Hall. University Housing contracts with the off-campus apartment are effective until May 11, 2019.

If students opt in, will they pay spring rent to the apartment complex?

Because students’ contracts are with University Housing, students who opted in will pay housing fees to University Housing for the spring semester.

How quickly will we have to move out?

Students who opt in will be reassigned and will have a timeframe to move in their new location. That timeframe is still being determined. Students will be provided packing materials to pack their belongings. University Housing will provide moving services to transport items to the new apartments to students who opt in.

 

OCTOBER 4 UPDATES

What kind of mold was found in Laurel Hall?

We have performed surface and air testing in several rooms in the building, and those samples are being evaluated by independent laboratory Assured Bio Labs. We do not have final results of the testing at this time. We expect a summary report from a certified professional industrial hygiene firm, Environmental Air Quality Professionals, on Thursday, October 4, followed by a full final report next week.

What caused it to grow?

No definitive cause of mold growth has been identified, but an independent certified industrial hygienist has indicated that significant rain, above average humidity conditions outside, individually controlled air conditioning units within each suite, and the ability to open and close room windows may have contributed to escalated mold growth.

Use of dehumidifiers throughout the building has lowered the humidity level and the mold has stopped spreading.

Is it dangerous?

Given preliminary air sample results, we have no reason to believe that there are major health and safety risks. The people most likely to have reactions to mold exposure are those with pre-existing conditions including asthma and allergic rhinitis, and those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments. Ongoing exposure can aggravate those conditions.

Some people are sensitive to mold. For these people, exposure to mold can lead to respiratory symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, coughing, chest congestion, and red or itchy eyes or skin. More severe reactions may include fever and chills.

If you develop respiratory symptoms and require medical attention, be sure to tell your health care provider that you may have been exposed to mold.

Read more about mold and health from the Centers for Disease Control.

Where will students move and when can they return?

University Housing will begin moving students into other residence halls and apartment buildings in the area within the next few weeks, as soon as details are finalized. Affected students will be updated on the timeline and accommodations as soon as information is available. The remediation process will begin when all students have been relocated from the building and is expected to take 14 weeks. Laurel Hall will remain closed through the academic year.

Why do students have to move out of Laurel Hall for the cleanup?

To ensure that the entire building is clean, Belfor has recommended that the building be unoccupied during the cleaning project. If some residents stay in the residence hall, there is the possibility of cross-contamination of clean areas by areas that have not been cleaned yet.

Why do students with no mold in their rooms have to move out?

To properly ensure the entire building is clean, Belfor has recommended that the building be unoccupied during the cleaning project. If some residents stay in the residence hall, there is the possibility of cross-contamination of clean areas and areas that have not been cleaned yet.

Are immediate short-term housing options available?

Students with health concerns should contact their hall director to discuss alternate housing options.

How will you get rid of the mold in Laurel Hall?

A certified professional industrial hygiene firm, Environmental Air Quality Professionals, will develop a comprehensive remediation protocol. Belfor Property Restoration, an independent contractor that specializes in microbial remediation, will perform the work as prescribed in that protocol, and EAQP will verify the outcome.

How should students avoid more mold growth in their rooms?

The humidity level has been lowered and the mold has stopped spreading.

An email has been sent to Laurel Hall residents on proper use of the air conditioning units.

How did the university learn about the issue?

All residence halls were inspected before the start of the academic year. University Housing received several maintenance requests about issues related to the damp, humid weather in mid-September. Housing maintenance staff inspected numerous rooms, and University Housing sent an email to students on September 20 reminding them to submit maintenance requests if they had concerns.

Last week, University Housing received multiple maintenance requests from Laurel Hall. After a building inspection revealed visible mold in several locations, staff met with Belfor, UT’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and Facilities Services to develop a plan, which included placing 42 dehumidifiers throughout the building to stabilize the environment and reduce further mold growth. The same staff sent emails to Laurel Hall residents alerting them to issues, advising them about the dehumidifiers, and instructing them on proper use of in-room air conditioning units.

The next day, a certified industrial hygienist conducted a building-wide inspection. Air quality tests for Laurel Hall are still pending.

Who can students call with questions?

University Housing is committed to providing continued updates on plans and how they affect students. We will be in contact by email to provide a timeline, details about the accommodation options, and information regarding available assistance.

Students with a need for immediate alternative housing should contact their hall director and housing staff.

Additionally, there will be ongoing communications to the university community.