Health concerns at another school Timber Grove PTA warns of mold, dirty ventilation system

March 26, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Parents at another Baltimore County elementary school are voicing concerns about health hazards.

The 770 students at Timber Grove Elementary were given letters to take home yesterday from the school PTA president warning of problems with mold, the water and a dirty ventilation system.

Some parents at Deer Park Elementary School in Randallstown have complained about air quality and have kept their children at home.

Beth A. Stevens, Timber Grove PTA president, said the school system has been slow to act on parent and faculty complaints about conditions at the Owings Mills school. "My concern lies with the ramifications of not letting the parents know what is going on," Mrs. Stevens said. "They want their questions answered."

The letter says that there has been a marked increase in student complaints of illness, mostly of headache, stomachache and respiratory, bronchial and chronic sinuslike symptoms. It called for a cleaning of the ventilation system, removal of the mold, installation of tiles to cover exposed concrete floors and replacement of acoustical tiles in several rooms.

The letter asks that free-standing water coolers -- which are supplied by a distributor -- remain in the building, and be paid for by the school system, not the school.

Del. Michael J. Finifter, an Owings Mills Democrat whose 6-year-old son attends Timber Grove, led a meeting in November between parents and school officials. During the meeting, both groups took a tour of the school, which included inspecting dirty air ducts.

Mr. Finifter said parents have complained since then that promises to take corrective action have gone unfulfilled.

"There's just been no follow-through on the system's part, and there needs to be some accountability," he said. "Teachers and students have a right to attend a school they know to be environmentally safe and proven sound."

County schools spokesman Donald I. Mohler said an air-quality study done after asbestos abatement last summer showed no problems. He said plans are to replace tiles during spring break, and to have the school evaluated by Jenkins Professionals Inc. -- a company specializing in indoor air quality that was recommended last year by parents.

"That's the company that the community has come out in support of, and parents and faculty seem to have a high degree of confidence in them," Mr. Mohler said. "The firm is going to go in and evaluate the entire mechanical system, and they will then share those findings with us."

Several parents described yesterday their children's illnesses, .including Laura George, who said her 6-year-old son, Tristan, has been absent since March 4 when he suffered a severe allergy attack and was hospitalized. She believes the attack was prompted by tarring during roof-replacement work, but now wants to know whether additional symptoms of head and stomachaches are caused by the school's air.

Some parents said that teachers in the 28-year-old building have complained of illnesses. The parents said teachers filed a grievance with their union, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

Several teachers declined to be interviewed. A spokesman for TABCO confirmed that a grievance has been filed, but said he could not comment on it.

"All I can say is that it's a grievance about the environment [at the school]," said the spokesman, Terry Zahren. "We have a contractual clause that says we can't discuss grievances with third parties until it is resolved."

Meanwhile, the absentee count grew yesterday at Deer Park Elementary, where 208 of the 500 students were absent -- many kept home by parents who want the school closed until an air study is conducted to determine if the building is safe.

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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