Aug 29, 2023

Parents at CT elementary school concerned about mold

As students begin returning to classrooms across the state, some Windsor parents have concerns about conditions at one elementary school.

Parents at Oliver Ellsworth Elementary School say they are afraid to send their children back to school Monday after photographs of mold reportedly taken at the school were circulated.

“I’m a nervous wreck, I don’t want to send my son back,” said Karen Mendoza, the parent of a 6-year-old student entering first grade. “I don’t really have much of a choice but to send him into that building for his education. Because at the rate we’re going, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get answers any time soon, so delaying his education isn’t going to be beneficial to him.”

Mendoza said she received several photos from a school employee that show black mold on several pieces of furniture items, ceilings, walls and on floors.

“My son was sick so much last year,” Mendoza said. “And when I talked to other parents about if their kids were also sick more than usual, they all said yes. My kid was out for 20 days last year, 16 of those he was sick. That’s a lot. No one else in my house was sick, just him.”

Windsor Public Schools put out a statement Aug. 24, that both the district and the town are working together to address the situation. According to the town, a previous third-party mold air assessment indicated results were within industry-accepted parameters. But that test was conducted last September, according to Windsor’s Health Department. The town conducted a new air quality test on Aug. 22.

“The district’s response is that they recently retested and they’re awaiting the results of an air quality test, but they are saying that can be another few weeks before we get the results back,” Mendoza said. “My son goes back on Monday.”

The Windsor Health Department said the root of the problem is the school’s elevated humidity levels and excessive moisture built up over the summer months.

“The Windsor Health Department has inspected the building, reviewed a third party mold air assessment, and have been working together with the Windsor Public Schools to address the situation through both short and long term mitigation strategies. Some of the actions the Windsor Public Schools have taken include the utilization of commercial dehumidifiers, frequent cleaning, as well as monitoring and making adjustments to the HVAC system,” according to Michael Pepe, director of Health Services.

“The plan was to have no summer school and take care of the school’s chiller, but when they did that they found a significant amount of mold,” Mendoza said. “When teachers started to do classroom evaluations, that’s when they discovered mold on chairs and desks. So the pictures are very recent.”

Other parents are also expressing their concerns that the district is not taking the adequate steps to resolve the issue.

“We know mold is dangerous, especially for little children and their respiratory systems,” said Nicole Archer, the parent of a 5-year-old student entering kindergarten. “I find it very frustrating because we keep getting answers that they’ve done testing and it’s safe enough for kids to be in classrooms, yet we literally see mold growing everywhere. So how do those two things add up?”

Archer said she didn’t know there was a mold issue until just a few days ago when the images began circulating among parents and staff. One of her children already attended the school and she’s concerned what health effects might arise from possible mold exposure.

“As I think about Monday coming up, my stomach is in knots,” Archer said. “Do I send her with a mask? Do I send her for an hour just to meet her teacher and send her back home? I’m not sure.”

Diane Melluzzio, the parent of two children children going into first and second grades, said she will not be sending them back to school on Monday. Melluzzio said that her hope is the district will open a temporary location for parents at LP Wilson Community Center while the air quality test results come back.

“I would feel a lot more comfortable if my kids were in a different building,” Mulluzzio said. “We do have a community center that has many rooms, a gym, and a huge outdoor area for outdoor play. They have the resources to respond to this immediately and move everyone to a temporary location until they find out what’s going on with that building.”

But despite concerns, the town said there is no need to delay the start of school.

“We will continue to monitor and work with the Windsor Public Schools to resolve the issues,” Pepe said.

The town has not yet said when the results of the latest air quality test will be made available. Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks was not available for comment.

Stephen Underwood can be reached at [email protected]

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