Santa Rosa preschool Merryhill won't reopen after black mold found in the school
A Santa Rosa preschool operating here more than 30 years has permanently closed, a week after officials abruptly shut the school to remove mold.
Merryhill Country School, which has nearly 100 students, told parents Thursday the decision was made after black mold was detected in air quality testing done in the aftermath of the storms that drenched Sonoma County last month.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania company that owns the school, which offered programs for children from infants to pre-kindergarten, said Friday that closing after its long history in Santa Rosa came with “great sadness.”
Parents are frustrated because they want more information from the school regarding when the mold was detected, the extent of it and the health risks to their children.
Kerry Owens, the Nobel Learning Communities spokeswoman, declined to address questions about whether the recent air quality rest results were the first indication of mold at Merryhill, whether the full air quality test results would be released, or whether the facility’s license had been revoked.
In addition to their health concerns, Santa Rosa faces a shortage of preschools and childcare and so Merryhill’s closure has forced parents to scramble to find childcare providers for their children.
Lara Magnusdottir, public policy director for the Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County, called Merryhill’s closure “a really big blow” to the community.
“There really isn’t room to lose that kind of a big facility,” she said. “We’re at a crisis already.”
Explaining the closure, Owens said, “After recent heavy rains, we experienced water damage that would take many months to complete and would be cost- prohibitive.” Nobel Learning, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, operates more than 200 preschools nationwide.
Last week, Owens said the company’s focus was on “repairing our school so it can be restored as a safe and healthy learning environment” after deciding to close the school indefinitely.
Merryhill officials alerted parents Monday that black mold — stachybotrys chartarum — was found in the school through air quality testing conducted as part of a post-storm damage assessment.
The school’s email to parents about that finding noted that mold exposure can lead to health problems including asthma and included a link to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website with more information.
“As we’ve stated before, we moved to close the school as soon as we got word of these test results,” school officials wrote to parents. “We greatly regret the impact that water damage has had on the building and in turn the disruption to our families, but the health and safety of both children and staff is always our first concern.”
The school is offering a refund of a week’s worth of tuition, plus a “goodwill payment” of two additional weeks worth of tuition and a refund of any deposits. Owens said the extra financial credit was “to help families with this unexpected transition.”
Vanessa Hart, a Santa Rosa native whose 4-year-old attended Merryhill, said black mold is not uncommon near the Russian River but called it “horrifying” to learn mold spores were found in the air of the east Santa Rosa school. She criticized the “goodwill payment” as “buying us off” and “trying to keep us quiet,” adding that Nobel Learning had not provided her with the full air quality report despite her request.