Mold problem at Coleytown worsens
Clarification: The original version of this story said if mold was found in the hallways the remediation cost could surpass $1 million. School officials say this is not accurate and the original estimate of $250,000 to $300,000 still stands whether mold is found in the halls or not. The story has been adjusted.
WESTPORT — A mold removal project at Coleytown Middle School appears to be worsening.
School officials believe the process will cost more than originally thought after mold was found in new areas throughout the school.
Over the school’s Thanksgiving break, three rooms were inspected and remediated by Brooks Environmental Consulting: classroom 116, classroom 117 and the custodian’s office. The consultant’s report states that the observed levels of mold could cause coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, asthma attacks, irritation and itching. It also mentions that “…the observed condition may cause biological exposures…and chemicals exposure.”
Coleytown Middle School Principal Kris Szabo said, “We’ve had no reports of allergy onset from any staff or students in the building since all of this has started.”
The initial mold problem, which stems from a design flaw in the unit ventilator of the walls and substandard insulation, was first reported by a janitor in August in classroom 133. Szabo said classroom 133 was the only instance of exposed mold in the school and all other mold discovered is concealed.
Classroom 116, where Ellen Hilton teaches French, was found to have potentially toxic mold; classroom 117, where Karen Kupinse teaches Spanish, turned up common molds and the custodian’s office yielded potentially toxic mold. All three rooms were stripped of mold over the Nov. 23-26 period and both classrooms were deemed to meet “acceptable levels” to resume instruction in. The janitor’s office requires further air testing.
Students inhabited the two classrooms from the start of the year until Thanksgiving break, Szabo said. They returned the Monday after break, when all abatement work was finished, and resumed class in rooms 116 and 117.
Out of 34 total rooms and two hallways, 18 rooms have been tested with nine of them containing mold. Although the entire remediation project was expected to be completed by January and cost $250,000, School Business Operations Director Elio Longo said that the hallways will not be addressed until the summer and, currently, the project is expected to cost up to $300,000.
Only two parents have inquired about the mold issue, Szabo said. One of the phone calls was to offer help and the other asked to see the school was following protocol.
John Horrigan, the co-president of the Westport Education Association, a teachers union, issued an emailed statement saying he supports the way the school district is handling the mold removal: “...my only comment would be that the Tools for Schools Committee at CMS..I serve on it as well as the head custodian for CMS and also the district head of building services..has been on top of this situation from the first notice of the problems to reviewing the report and examining spaces. I am confident that the district is doing the best they can to cope with this situation with minimal impact on teaching.”
Over the winter break, they intend to inspect rooms: 103, 104, 105, 106 and if time permits, 202, 221 and 222.
Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer declined to provide a mapped-out image of the affected rooms, citing security concerns.