Thursday, July 26, 2007
By Linda Alvkall
It was a heated meeting Wednesday night at Westport Town Hall as many parents expressed anger and concern about the air quality at King’s Highway Elementary School.
State health experts addressed mold issues at Wednesday night’s Town Hall meeting on air quality at King’s Highway Elementary School. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
So many Westporters showed up that the meeting first scheduled for room 309 had to be moved to the Town Hall auditorium.
Brendan Reilly, a concerned parent who has two children at the school, was upset that his son’s asthma has worsened due to what he said was mold in his classroom.
“Fourteen out of 19 children in one classroom have symptoms,” Reilly said. “The sickness of these children is the most important thing.”
He added there is testing that indicated a mold problem that goes back at least to 1997 and a history of teachers complaining.
Another parent, Bill Pecorellio, said he wants additional testing of the entire school.
“We want our own independent expert, and regain our trust,” he said.
Pecorellio said his number one priority is the kids, that he wants to know the history of this problem, and that parents will pay for more testing if necessary.
“Money is not the issue,” Pecorellio said.
Marian Heyman, an industrial hygienist at the Connecticut Department of Public Health who walked through the school earlier in the day, said every carpet has mold.
“If you gotta smell it, find the source and get rid of it,” Heyman said.
According to Heyman, the recommended ventilation guideline is 800 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. A report from May 2007 indicates carbon dioxide levels higher than 1,000 ppm in 17 of 24 classrooms total at the school.
Reilly asked Heyman why no more testing is being done, and she replied that improved communication is needed among parents, the Board of Education, and Sue Jacozzi, director of Weston Westport Health District.
Reilly said that the existence of Stachybotrys, Aspergillus/Pennicillium molds has been documented by independent testing companies in multiple areas of King’s Highway since October 2001.
Heyman said, “Follow up on ventilation issues, follow up on carbon monoxide results from May 2007, avoid unnecessary testing, continue with carpet removal, and improve communication..
“The carpets have been removed from the classrooms, so no more concerns about that,” Heyman said.
Kenneth Foscue, another specialist with the state Department of Public Health, said the health of the children was the most important thing.
“The nosebleeds could be related to a number of sources,” Foscue said.
Ann Dinshaw, a parent, said her children have spent years at the school without knowing that there was mold in the classrooms.
“It’s been years of not being told what to look for,” Dinshaw said.
Foscue said Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon had committed to implementing the “Tools for Schools” air quality program that has been successful in reducing similar problems at many schools in the state and across the country.
According to Foscue, for example in Chester, yearly asthma-related office visits decreased from 463 before the program to 82 after its implementation over a four-year period.
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said, “We will do what we have to do to make the school safe.”
He said this was a commitment and he will work collaboratively with the parents and superintendent to get the job done.
Joseloff pledged to include an air quality expert endorsed by the parents in a committee of citizens, and town and school officials to tackle the air quality issues.
Landon said, “We are the only school district in the state which voluntarily tests the whole school. We will work closely and do our best to make sure the kids are safe.”
A demolition of a “pod,” a temporary structure at the school where mold has been found, is planned, and Landon said he is prepared to have it removed.
(For more information on the issue visit www.KHScleanair.org)
Posted 07/26/07 at 05:46 AM
The Center for School Mold Help, an educational nonprofit, applauds the First Selectman’s stance, and offers our resources at www.schoolmoldhelp.org.
A history of having a documented mold problem that the parents were not warned about, with teachers complaining, many sick children ... this i reprehensible. The superintendent should have alerted the parents as a whole.
If they are removing the rugs without special mold remediation procedures, they are spreading it into the HVAC system and entire school. That would be typical of many school districts.
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