Connecticut Foundation
for Environmentally Safe Schools

Middlesex County

Moody School Mold Frightens Parents, Teachers
by Matthew Engelhardt, Middletown Press
Thursday, January 25, 2006: Concerned parents packed the gymnasium at Moody Elementary School on Thursday night looking for answers to what they said are growing health hazards. [MORE]

Following discoveries of mold and problems relating to the roof, a panel of health experts, educators, and city officials answered questions about the condition of the school. In the past weeks, two portable classrooms, as well as the school library, have been shut down to clean out mold that has been linked to air and health problems for students and faculty.

"Would you send your child to school here?" Teresa Vitelli, a parent, asked the panel. Vitelli presented photographs taken Wednesday of wet towels and obstacles students have to deal with, and has kept her fifth grade daughter home from school all week due to conditions.

Other parents voiced often emotional stories of health problems experienced by their children, including symptoms of nausea, migraines, nose bleeds, and allergies they attribute to the mold. According to the panel, the problem exists because of water leaks in the roof that allow mold to grow and spread spores into the air.

"We know we have a water problem, which we will ultimately have to address," said Middletown mayor Sebastian Giuliano. "We're going to get the facts, and then get the experts who know what the facts mean."

The Middletown Health Department is working together with the state to help identify and fix the mold problem. Additionally, the forum addressed the dangers of a flat roof, and plans are in the works to either repair the roof or replace it completely.

The forum included a seminar about the specifics of mold and prevention, both in the home and in public buildings.

The lecture, led by epidemiologist Marian Heyman of the state Department of Public Health, addressed the fact that mold in any building is inevitable.

"Don't feel that you are the only school to have this problem," Heyman said, acknowledging that the department frequently deals with mold issues.

According to Heyman, the best way to prevent mold is to prevent leaks and other water pathways.

While other factors cannot be helped, people can limit the amount of water that gets into their homes and schools. In simple terms, by reducing the leaks, fixing the roof, and removing the existing mold, future problems can be avoided.

This came as little comfort to several of the parents, some of whom asked why conditions had been allowed to get this bad in the first place.

The panel did its best to comfort the audience and answer the questions, and are working towards a solution.

"We will move forward to resolve issues at Moody School once and for all," said Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette.

However, fixing the problem is likely to be a difficult and potentially expensive process. Gil Cormier of Occupational Risk Control Service Inc. is acting as principle consultant addressing the mold issue.

He compared his task of identifying the problem to being asked to "put together a 1,000 piece puzzle" without the benefit of a picture to guide him.

Meanwhile, costs could be substantial, and Giuliano acknowledged that any expenditures over $500,000 would have to be approved by a city-wide referendum.

The panel assured parents it would maintain close contact and address all their concerns, and do everything in its power to make Moody a safe school. Giuliano dismissed the relevance of Vitelli's photographs, citing that many buildings, including city hall, experienced water problems on Wednesday due to heavy rains and high winds.

Every room in the school is being inspected to address the problem.

Kendall Jackson, director of facilities for Middletown schools, also quieted fears of a roof collapse, stating that structure tests revealed leaking, but no threat of greater imminent danger.


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