Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County has the distinction of being the only county school to undergo extensive renovation even as its students attend classes.
Last night, the principal of the school sought to calm parents and students concerned about potential safety and health problems stemming from the work.
"I believe it is safe," Principal Ray Gross told about 500 parents during a back-to-school meeting. "That does not mean it doesn't stink."
The 37-year-old school, located in the 17300 block of York Road in Parkton, is undergoing renovation at a cost of between $14 million and $15 million. The work is not to be finished until 1994, according to county schools spokesman Richard E. Bavaria.
Complaints largerly center on the roofing work and the removal of asbestos. Students and teachers alike say fumes from the roofing tar and from the chemical solvent used in the removal of asbestos have caused headaches and dizzy spells.
There are 805 students and 105 teachers at the school.
Two "chemically sensitive" teachers asked for leaves of absence, Mr. Bavaria said. They will return to work in about two weeks, after the roof work is completed, but will be teaching in trailers. A third teacher, who is pregnant, requested leave on the advice of her doctor. She may be transferred.
The renovation work began in mid-August because the money to pay contractors had not previously been available and the roofing contractor had prior commitments.
The asbestos removal was done over the summer but the chemicals left lingering odors, said Kiki Geis, supervisor of environmental services for the school system.
Inspectors from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Agency and from the school system have determined that the fumes will cause "nothing more than headaches," Mr. Bavaria said. Still, he said, "this is far from the ideal learning environment."
There are no places to relocate students, he said. The closest high school is Dulaney, about 10 miles away and already overcrowded by a few hundred students.
So, there's little consolation for the worried teachers, students and parents.
"I get really bad headaches," said Lindsie Shortall, 17. "My throat gets dry, my eyes get scratchy, and I get really, really tired." An allergy sufferer, she said students and teachers with allergies seem to be the most susceptible.
Jim Abbott, a parent with a 15-year-old daughter at the school, said there was not much anyone could do about the situation. "What are you going to do? You got to live with it."