The Times Herald Record
December 14, 2005

Parents Outraged About School Mold

By Heather Yakin

Liberty - About 100 parents went to Monday night's school board meeting, many of them angry.

The school recently got a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health saying the middle school shows evidence of serious moisture and mold problems, and the elementary school has issues, too. Parents demanded to know what the district is doing to fix the problem and whether their kids are safe.

"I'm very, very concerned about the health of our kids here, and the health of everyone in the building," said mom Padma Dyvine. "I'm concerned that we're not addressing the problem as deeply as it needs to be addressed."

The school board is taking bids on major renovations to fix the middle school's problems. In 2004, a board-commissioned architectural review identified many of the same problems as NIOSH. In May, voters approved using $375,000 from the district capital reserves for the work.

The bids will be unsealed on Jan. 11; the district expects the work to start in spring.

Buildings and grounds head Gary Sawyer said his staff is working on the NIOSH recommendations, and BOCES will do quarterly air testing.

Dyvine voiced concerns that a lot of the people there had: Parents worry the mold might not be properly removed. They want a flow of information on what exactly the board is doing. They want to know any new contractors' qualifications.

Anthony Hibbert, a mold inspector who was a consultant last year for the teachers' union, said, "if the remediation is not done properly, you could spend thousands of dollars, and people could continue to be very, very sick."

Parents and staff were also upset because the board, in a closed session, voted to retire middle school librarian Angela Page against her will.

Page has been out on workers' compensation disability for more than a year for mold-related illness.

Liberty Faculty Association President Tim Hamblin said the union is looking into the legality of the board's decision.

"I think this action is intolerable," Hamblin told the board. "The right thing is to show the employees that you care about their safety and health."

About two-thirds of the crowd left after the board limited speakers in the first public comment session. More people were allowed to speak later.