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Entire school bulldozed after disturbing find

A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the air conditioning system. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW
A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the airconditioning system. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW

A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the airconditioning system.

The issue was discovered by a Willyama High School staff member in January and on Tuesday an independent hygienist report found the mould problem was so severe,the building in far west NSW would require razing to the ground.

Categorised as a stage three infestation - the most severe - a range of human pathogens were found including Aspergillus and Penicillium, both of which can cause disease.

A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the air conditioning system. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW
A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the airconditioning system. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW

In a Q&A published by the NSW state government, they said “the independent hygienist was unable to determine the exact cause of the microbial growth”, but there were “multiple contributing factors”.

“Moisture created from within the building could have occurred from the carpets being cleaned and the airconditioning system being operational during the shutdown period,” they said.

“Water ingress from outside from large box guttering and combined with large storm events in January along with elevated humidity.”

The report said overcrowding and inadequate storage facilities made general routine cleaning difficult.

It said an extensive mould outbreak would be difficult to remediate and, even if remediated, posed a potential risk of harm to the school community into the future.

A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the air conditioning system. Picture: NSW
The mould even grew on drum skins. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW

“Due to these findings, the department has recommended a complete rebuild of the school,” the report said.

All Willyama High School students and staff will be able to continue learning and teaching face-to-face from term two at the pop-up school on the shared site at Broken Hill High School.

It is suggested the infestation started in a music room on the ground floor, then spread to the rest of the building via airconditioning vents.

Lead paint and asbestos was also found during the mould inspection.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said on Tuesday while the news was “not ideal”, the government would support the community in a full rebuild.

“While today’s news is not ideal, I want to assure the people of Broken Hill that we will be with you for as long as it takes to rebuild this school,” she said.

A public high school will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a shocking mould infestation spread throughout the entire campus, potentially through the air conditioning system. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW
The school will need to be completely knocked down. Picture: School Infrastructure NSW

Broken Hill mayor Tom Kennedy said it was a relief to have clarity moving forward.

“The town can now move forward knowing that we’re likely to continue to have two schools, which is really important to the future of the city,” he said to the ABC.

“People also need to consider the demountables are on the Broken Hill site, which means the education outcomes for the Broken Hill site is also greatly affected, by having an additional 600 odd students.

“We’re nowhere near the position where we will be looking at planning at this stage, so you’ve still got a fair bit of time before you get to that stage.”