It seems like every day a new school is in the news because teachers, students, and parents are up in arms about mold making everyone in the building sick. I couldn’t possibly report about each of these stories, and if I did it would become redundant since they are all so much alike. Moldy schools have become a nationwide epidemic. But why is it that mold is so commonly found in schools? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons. The design of most schools makes them susceptible to water damage. Unlike houses, with slanted tile roofs, schools are built with flat roofs. This allows water to pool after rainstorms and eventually creates leaks. For this reason, new schools are often built with pitched roofs. In the past schools have tried to fix water seepage by permanently sealing windows. Also, schools may have poorly designed or maintained ventilation systems. These two factors combined make it hard for water vapor to easily exit the building, trapping moisture inside the school.

Now these problems aren’t uncommon to office buildings, but schools are usually stuck with a limited budget that keeps them from fixing minor damages as they occur, allowing them grow into bigger, more expensive problems. Maintenance jobs are often held off so more money can be spent inside the classrooms. The fact is that nearly 55 million people, 20 percent of the U.S. population, spend their days inside elementary and secondary schools. And at least 20 percent of these schools have serious air-quality problems. With this many people, it’s important for these conditions to improve, but there isn’t enough money.

So instead of spending more, schools need to spend smarter. One study of an elementary school showed that if $8,140 had been spent over 22 years on preventive maintenance, $1.5 million in repairs could have been avoided. I’m sure you could find similar astounding figures by looking at other schools. The best way to deal with mold in schools, and any other buildings, is through prevention. Too often schools allow for the elements to get a foothold and minor problems to erupt into expensive damages, sick kids, and a lot of drama.