What’s going on with mold in Stamford?
When did the city’s problem with mold emerge?
The Board of Education brought up mold at a meeting in late September where they were presented with a report from the district’s chief fiscal and operations support officer, Clarence Zachery, that showed mold had been found in 11 of Stamford’s 21 public school buildings since August. However, as more information has come out about the issue, teachers and parents said they’ve seen mold dating back years. The district’s last facility report from 2009 advised city officials to assess at least seven schools for mold.
How has the city and Board of Education responded?
After teachers and school staff spoke for almost two hours about the presence of mold in the schools during an Oct. 23 school board meeting, the Board of Education inspected Westover Magnet Elementary School, which was the subject of the bulk of complaints. After air quality control tests showed elevated mold counts, officials decided to close the school for a week. On Friday, Nov. 2, less than a week after the inspection, city officials announced the school would be closed indefinitely due to the health risks the building posed based on the mold found there.
Students and faculty at Westover were moved to an office building on Elmcroft Road which they share with about 100 Building and Land Technology employees.
The board also closed down the portable classrooms at Newfield Elementary School at the end of October in response to parent complaints and formed a Mold Task Force to address mold in Stamford Public Schools. Task Force members include Director of Administration Michael Handler, Interim Director of Operations Cindy Grafstein, Deputy Superintendent Tamu Lucero, Chief Financial and Operations Officer Clarence Zachery and City Engineer Lou Casolo. The task force keeps a website with updated information on mold found in the schools.
Where has mold been found?
According to the Mold Task Force website, mold has been found in the majority of Stamford public school buildings.
Is the mold dangerous?
According to Stamford’s Department of Health, mold is mostly harmless, but can cause illness when spores are inhaled. People with underlying conditions and allergies are more prone to experiencing symptoms, which include wheezing, shortness of breath, worsening of asthma, stuffy nose, a dry cough or a cough that sometimes brings up blood or plugs of mucus, itchy and watery eyes, facial pain, headache, fever with or without chills, skin lesions, fatigue, chest or joint pain and unintentional weight loss.
Dr. Dominic Roca, a pulmonologist and allergist with Stamford Health, said in general, the effects of mold are not long standing. But students, parents and staff have complained of the health effects with more than 100 faculty members filing workers’ compensation claims due to mold-related symptoms.
How much is this costing the city?
The district has already spent $612,000 on remediation, as per its first quarter financial report, as well as $850,592 of its $1.7 million custodial overtime budget due in part to mold remediation. Renting space in the Elmcroft Road building to house Westover students has cost $1.8 million — plus an additional million to outfit the space.
All expenses related to mold spent after Oct. 29 will not be the Board of Education’s responsibility, but will come from a city reserve fund.
What don’t we know?
The total cost of the mold will become clearer as the fiscal year progresses. There have also been concerns raised about the possible presence of mold in other city buildings, including the Government Center, and a shortage of substitutes driven by increased teacher absences due to mold, particularly at Westhill High School.
How can I get involved?
The Mold Task Force holds weekly public meetings almost every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the fifth floor of Government Center where community members can ask questions. Meetings are also recorded and available for viewing online.
The Board of Education also meets on the last Tuesday of every month, during which there is time for the public to be heard. Agendas and meeting documents can be found on Stamford Public Schools’ website. Board members have also made themselves available to hear the public’s concerns and can be reached via their city email addresses.
What else should I read to understand this story?
Mold issues grow in Stamford schools
Mold contributes to soaring custodial overtime in Stamford schools
Stamford parents demand solutions in classroom mold problem
Stamford school district closes down Newfield portable classrooms after parental outrage
Westover Magnet closing indefinitely due to mold
Study: Westover should have been tested for mold in 2009
Westover students, parents see ‘incredible’ new space
Stamford officials find $2.2M revenue shortfall
Maintenance deferred: Without funding, problems can grow like ... mold
Doctor: Mold symptoms usually are temporary
Nearly 100 Stamford teachers claim illness from mold
More teachers out after being moved to moldy room in city hall
Westhill students stage protest over mold issues
The mold task force website
Who is covering this story?
The Stamford Advocate’s education reporter, Erin Kayata can be reached at (203) 964-2265, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @erin_kayata.
Readers can contact city government reporter Angela Carella by email at firstname.lastname@example.org