Westport Country Playhouse presents ROMEO & JULIET, October 31-November 19
Westport Young Woman's League CraftWestport, November 4-5, Staples High School
Quick Center at Fairfield University
Your 24/7 News Source

Friday, August 31, 2007

Parental Health Concerns Persist at King’s Highway

By Linda Alvkall

UPDATE Although Westport’s King’s Highway Elementary School opened on schedule Wednesday, some parents said today they are still concerned about the health of their children.

The parents expressed their concern at a meeting of the Special Kings’s Highway Elementary School Maintenance Committee in Town Hall.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff appointed the committee in July to investigate parental complaints about air quality at the school. The committee uncovered mold in the school gymnasium and oversaw its remediation.

“I think that what you are hearing among the parents…is that I don’t feel from Nancy (Harris, assistant superientendent) and Elliott (Landon, superintendent of schools) yet that the administration is really willing in a systemic way to validate, you know, the fact that there are air quality issues that need to be followed,” said Lauren Tarshis, a King’s Highway parent and committee member.

She said she was “very uncomfortable” that teachers have yet to meet with air quality consultant Gil Cormier and have not been instructed about opening windows and operating the ventilation systems.

“And until that happens, there is going to be a lot of discomfort among the parents on the committee, and I think it’s going to be difficult for teachers to feel in a normal way that they can comfortably go to the nurse and report problems,” she said.

Several teacher union representatives at the meeting echoed the parental concerns.

Gerald Kuroghlian, a longtime Staples High School teacher and a teachers union environmental committee member, said “on the basis of past reprimands” teachers were reluctant to report air quality issues.

John Horrigan, a teacher at Coleytown Middle School and union representative, added that the “general tone of the (King’s Highway) staff is that they are very distrustful because of what has been going on.”

He said while teachers may feel the actual climate is safe, “they don’t feel there’s a safe working environment that’s being provided. I think there’s a lot of mistrust.”

Harris defended the administration’s efforts and said air quality issues have always been a concern to her personally.

“The Board of Education and all of our staff have a track record of taking indoor air quality seriously,” she said.

“So while anyone can characterize my personal assumptions in whatever way they feel is necessary, I can certainly assure you that I have never taken indoor air quality as anything but as very important.” 

Gavin Anderson, committee chairman, told the meeting that he was at the school for its opening day along with Joseloff.

“The gym was in use and we walked around there,” he said. “The gymnasium has clean walls, it smells good in there, and it has humidifiers.”.

He said he was now concentrating efforts on reopening the modulars at the school where other problems had been found.

Cormier said he has taken air samples of the modulars and it might take up to 10 days to get the results back.

Removing the carpets from the modulars, which are used for music lessons, was discussed, and Anderson said he was concerned about the acoustics in the room. He suggested putting a throw rug in there.

Bill Pecoriello, committee member and King’s Highway parent, asked if the children could be outside during recess instead of inside since the weather is still nice.

Pecorellio also suggested recording the history of illness symptoms from the gymnasium, and talking to gym teachers.

Parents said they wanted Anderson to have the committee review past records about the mold and complaints.

“In 2002 we had a study,” said Pecorellio. “How can we keep our trust this time?”

Tarshis added, “We are repeating the pattern from 2001-2002.”

Landon, who observed the committee meeting from the back of the room, interrupted discussion of past issues and said, “This is not the purpose of this meeting. We’re not going to discuss that at this meeting.”

He then added, waving his arms to emphasize his point: “End of story, period.”

“There have been complaints from the computer room,” said Alison Reilly, another King’s Highway parent on the committee.

Anderson suggested keeping a log and submitting it to Sue Jacozzi, committee member and director of the Westport Weston Health District, if there any more complaints, and try to keep a track of trends and patterns.

Cormier recommended keeping the unit ventilations off and the windows closed with the air-conditioners on in every classroom.

“I think we should meet with teachers and inform them on how to use the air-conditioners,” said Tarshis.

Anderson said that teachers need to be addressed and a group meeting is needed. “We need to stay positively focused and get to conclusions,” he said.

Sean Timmins, a King’s Highway parent and member of the Representative Town Meeting, said he wanted the school nurse to keep a log on how many complaints she receives in a certain time period.

He said health privacy concerns should not be an obstacle to obtaining general patterns of illnesses at the school.

The next meeting of the committee was scheduled for Sept. 6 at 5 p.m. in room 309.

       Share

Posted 08/31/07 at 01:16 AM  Permalink



Comments

You must have a Facebook account and be logged to this account (login/logout button above) to post comments. Comments are subject to our Comment Policy.

<<Parents said they wanted Anderson to have the committee review past records about the mold and complaints.

“In 2002 we had a study,” said Pecorellio. “How can we keep our trust this time?”

Tarshis added, “We are repeating the pattern from 2001-2002.”

Landon, who observed the committee meeting from the back of the room, interrupted discussion of past issues and said, “This is not the purpose of this meeting. We’re not going to discuss that at this meeting.” >>

I just have to ask, why can’t people discuss past mold problems and how they were or weren’t resolved. This is America, and when a group meets to discuss a problem, I don’t think it is appropriate that they should be hampered by not allowing them to speak about problems a school district has had in the past with mold. No wonder the teachers feel distrustful, under conditions like this, problem-solving cannot occur. Full disclosure of all that is known is what the public is entitled to know and discuss.

The lack of enforcement of school environmental laws on the books in the state of CT appears to open the door to covering up problems. We look to CT in the rest of the country, yours is the most progressive state with regards to protecting indoor air quality in schools.

We salute the parents and community members, and the unions too, for being forthright about their concerns and taking their time to protect the health of the school occupants.

Susan Brinchman
Director, Center for School Mold Help
www.schoolmoldhelp.org
http://new.schoolmoldhelp.org (new site)

Posted by Susan Brinchman on September 03, 2007 at 12:11 AM | #