Times Herald-Record
December 9, 2005

Inspectors find mold in 3 Liberty schools
Health problems in the schools

By Heather Yakin

Liberty - Persistent leaks, mold growing on murals, rotted wood - these are just a few of the things that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found at Liberty's schools.

In all three schools, NIOSH investigators found places where water was seeping - and in some cases, running - into the structures. NIOSH also found a pattern of health problems, including sore throats, headaches and numbness among teachers.

For longtime middle school librarian Angela Page, the findings weren't a surprise. She is currently on worker's compensation leave because of neurotoxic poisoning from mold in the library. Serious leaks from the ceiling sent water down onto the shelves and books. A tarp that has been rigged up for years, funneling runoff into buckets, was photographed in the report.

"I've dumped buckets for 13 years," she said.

And that's just one room.

NIOSH inspectors found some visible mold and active leaks in the middle school, and signs of leaks in the other two schools. Liberty Superintendent Lawrence Clarke said the district started moving to correct problems, even before NIOSH visited the schools in June at the teachers' request for a health hazard evaluation.

A major renovation of the middle school is scheduled to start in the spring. The district started planning the repairs after a 2004 architectural review of the building cataloged the leaks.

"We want to get these things addressed and fixed so we can move on," Clarke said.

NIOSH found that the middle school was "very clean and well kept," and that many repairs had been done to try to fix the leak problems since the school was built in 1991. But NIOSH noted tarps and buckets in the library, containers on windowsills to catch leaks, and similar problems.

Teachers reported migraines, watery eyes, sore throats and coughs. All can be symptoms of moldy or damp environs, NIOSH said.

Page said she's heard of students and teachers who have symptoms similar to what she experienced in 2004 before her immune system buckled under a cascade of reactions to what her doctor said was long-term exposure to molds.

Page's exposure was intense. She worked full time in the middle school library, where the leaks triggered mold growth on books, shelves and carpeting.

She wants the school to monitor symptoms that could be caused by mold or dampness, like asthma or bronchitis. And she wants the district to make sure the problems are fixed insteading of slapping on a new roof.

"I want nobody to go through what I have," Page said.

Clarke said NIOSH's findings will be discussed at Monday's school board meeting.

"We as a district have been throwing money at this for years," Clarke said. "And it's time to do it right."