A Florida newspaper is running a three-part series on the subject of mold in schools. The series stems from a review of environmental studies, school district reports, and thousands of maintenance work orders over the past three years. The key findings include:
• A never-ending battle against mold — some of it the most potentially dangerous, toxin-producing varieties — infesting classrooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, media centers and even nurses' quarters.
• Repeated complaints that cited students and teachers suffering from stinging eyes, breathing distress and other symptoms thought to be related to poor indoor air quality.
• Persistently leaky buildings and faulty air-conditioning systems, which let in the moisture that mold needs to thrive.
• Some schools making matters worse by shutting off the air-conditioning to save money during weekends and summers in one of the hottest, most humid states in the country.
• Different approaches to the problem from school district to school district with inconsistent record keeping. In some cases, maintenance workers were allowed to paint over water-damaged areas instead of removing them as recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
• Parents who are often kept in the dark about the problem.
According to the first article, published October 17 in the Orlando Sentinel:
For nine months a year, 2.6 million students and hundreds of thousands of teachers and other employees spend at least six hours a day in Florida's public schools. Yet there are no state laws governing how schools should monitor, detect and handle mold buildup and other indoor air-quality issues.
The article includes the story of one middle school social studies teacher who left his job after six years. Jessy Hamilton says he battled mold and respiratory infections the entire time he taught at Walker Middle School.
The gray-black fungi first appeared in his portable classroom after the hurricanes of 2004. At one point, the entire ceiling was covered in mold, yet he had to hold classes there for eight weeks before his class could move into the media center temporarily, he said.
When Hamilton returned to the portable, the mold seemed to be gone. But it reappeared. Again and again.
"They would look at it and say, 'Ah, it is not as bad as it was,'" said Hamilton, who was eventually moved to another classroom, which he said also had mold. "They painted over it, which dumbfounds me to this day."
To read the article in its entirety, click here.