Westport parents call for greater transparency regarding mold at school
WESTPORT — Coleytown Middle School parents are calling on school officials to provide more accurate, transparent, and up to date information about the persistent mold problem at Coleytown.
“Parents are really asking for accurate and up to date current information,” Coleytown Middle School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Co-President Lee Goldstein told the Board of Education (BOE) at its meeting in Staples High School on Sept. 4. “The parents and the community members who have been particularly concerned about communication are the families with children and compromised respiratory systems, with allergies, with asthma, with autoimmune, issues, migraines, respiratory stuff. For those families and faculty members, this is an ongoing health and safety issue.”
Mold has been a problem at Coleytown Middle School since remediation efforts first began at the school in August 2016, at which point school officials estimated the work would be complete by the end of the calendar year.
The engineering and architecture at Coleytown make the school particularly susceptible levels of mold growth, Superintendent Colleen Palmer said, and over the summer a failure of the school’s air circulation system coupled with hot and humid weather led to the contamination of 34 Coleytown classrooms.
Before the start of school, school administrators treated the contamination by cleaning any materials that could be cleaned, removing materials that could not be cleaned, and bringing in industrial strength dehumidifiers and air scrubbers.
At the school board meeting, the night before the start of school on Aug. 28 school Chief Financial Officer Elio Longo said the only area of the school closed was the auditorium due to surface mold on the ceiling.
The day before the start of school, however, at the sixth-grade orientation on Monday, Aug. 27, all the new Coleytown students sat in the auditorium for orientation, Coleytown Middle School PTA co-President Sue Hermann told the school board.
“They were all in the auditorium. A few hours later, the auditorium was closed and quarantined for mold on the ceiling, on the stage curtain, and in other places,” Hermann said, adding the school’s orchestra and band have been unable to practice due to the auditorium’s closure and student report the school’s new vinyl ceiling tiles put in to reduce mold growth have caused sound issues and make the classrooms sound like a stadium.
Parents are concerned about the school’s communication with parents about the mold issue, Goldstein added, noting the Coleytown principal used to send an alert to the Coleytown community after each and every incident of mold or air quality issues in the school.
“Now, all the sudden, there’s a decision to batch the reports into one weekly email. Parents have no idea at any time which rooms are open and which are sealed off, which rooms have had new or newly discovered mold or leaking ceiling tiles and the like. Rumors are flying with inaccurate information,” Goldstein told the BOE.
Additionally, parents would like to and have not been given, a plan for monitoring mold and other air quality issues in Coleytown.
“A lot of parents have expressed concern over inadequate monitoring,” Goldstein said, adding, “We would really like to see a more frequent and robust measurement of the persistent problem.”
Superintendent Palmer said facilities staff are working to remediate every issue related to the mold levels, including the noise coming from the new ceiling tiles.
“We will revisit and make sure we have appropriate communication. We have always been totally transparent. We will continue to push out all information,” Palmer said.
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