Health inspection at three schools
Air quality, mold create fear
By Ramsey Al-Rikabi
Liberty – Federal health officials will meet with Liberty School
District administrators next week to plan an inspection of the
district's three schools, Superintendent Lawrence Clarke said.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH,
will inspect the schools because of concerns over air quality and mold.
"We hope NIOSH can give us credible information so we can reassure the
public and make sure our buildings are safe," Clarke said at Monday
night's school board meeting.
The Liberty Faculty Association, the district's teachers union, sent
requests to NIOSH for an evaluation as early as last September, said
union president Tim Hamblin.
The union's request included reports of coughing, congestion, chronic
sinus infections, headaches, eye irritation and dizziness from about 10
middle school and 20 elementary school teachers.
"The things you would have someplace where the air quality wasn't
good," Hamblin said.
NIOSH will make a full report to the school board that Clarke expects
to be made public.
The district has been criticized by teachers, parents and residents for
requiring Freedom of Information requests for copies of two previous
air quality studies done at the middle school in May and August of
2004. Both reports showed traces of potentially toxic mold.
Middle School librarian Angela Page and supporters came to the Monday
meeting to urge district action on what they say is poor air quality in
the middle and elementary schools.
Page started working in the middle school when it opened in 1991 and
says in 2000 her health began to deteriorate, a problem she attributes
to mold growing in the library caused by water seeping through the roof.
A resolution was passed by district voters in May to spend $375,000 to
fix the water issues at the middle school, which have been a problem
since the building opened.
Page did not return to the library this school year and last November a
workers' compensation judge ruled that she had a work-related injury, a
hypersensitive reaction to molds, vapors, and even perfumes.
Page, who describes her illness as, "a poisoning," took breathes from a
respirator in-between sentences when she addressed the board.
"I get dizzy. I can't think. I can't operate," Page said Monday. "I
don't want the health of our kids' brains, lungs and kidneys damaged
"I don't want this to happen to anybody else," she said. About half the
room gave her a standing ovation.