Letter : Schools need an environmental audit
Published 9:25 am, Saturday, October 29, 2016
As a past Board of Education Member in Westport from 2013 through 2015, one of the most significant issues the Board faced during my tenure was the Kings Highway HVAC repair project that led to the discovery of mold in the Kings Highway Elementary School. The issue the Board confronted at the time was not the HVAC project or the discovery of mold, but how additional money was appropriated beyond the approved amount. While the appropriation process was important to good governance of our school district, what was more important to me was the future safety of our children in all our Westport Public Schools.
Subsequently, I requested, on several occasions, a complete environmental audit of all our schools to ensure no other problems existed. I wanted to establish a baseline of safety so we could reassure our parents that their children were safe. After all, I believed this was one of the fundamental missions of the Board of Education and the Superintendent — to oversee the safety of our children. Unfortunately, the request was denied by our superintendent at the time, and the Board did not support the request. I was told an audit was completed in the past and that was sufficient.
Fast forward to Coleytown Middle School were mold has been collecting behind the walls of several classrooms over time due to a possibly-faulty HVAC cooling system. Five classrooms have been fixed with 15 more to be checked. We had to have a teacher at Coleytown complain of visible mold on the interior surface of the drywall before any action was taken.
How long have our children been breathing in airborne mold? Why did we not learn from Kings Highway and take proactive action with a comprehensive environmental audit? Why do we have to jeopardize our children's safety before action is taken? What matters more then the health of our children? Why have we only received reports on retroactive action with no proactive plan forward? How many other schools have issues?
I encourage the the PTA and the parents of Westport Public School children to request an environmental audit of all our schools. We must insist that our children’s environmental safety is assured at every school in Westport. Let’s hold our leaders accountable for our children’s well-being!