Maintenance woes seen at 2nd Balto. Co. school Teachers and students complain of discomfort and health problems

April 18, 1996|By Lisa Respers and Marego Athans | Lisa Respers and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

In another example of maintenance problems that may have led to illness and discomfort among Baltimore County teachers and students, filthy air-handling units and ducts and some inoperable equipment was found at Timber Grove Elementary School, preliminary results of a study show.

The study, which was triggered by student and teacher complaints of respiratory problems and headaches, recommends a thorough cleaning of the heating, ventilation and cooling systems. It also calls for repairing equipment designed to bring outside air into classrooms.

"The cause of the problems may be in the mechanical system," said Larry Jenkins, president of Jenkins Professionals Inc., which conducted testing. "It has not been maintained properly over the years."

Last month, the PTA president sent letters home with the 770 students of the Owings Mills school, warning of problems with mold, water and a dirty ventilation system. Teachers had filed a ++ grievance with the Teachers Association of Baltimore County about conditions in the building.

Mr. Jenkins said the report is expected to be released to school officials today and will recommend that air handlers, ducts, vents and other equipment be cleaned. It also recommends that a plan be developed for regular maintenance and filter replacements on the system.

Problems at Timber Grove come as the school system's top officials grapple with an air-quality crisis at Deer Park Elementary School, which has been closed for three weeks. Tests there have found poor ventilation and leaks from the heating system, which health officials say could trigger respiratory problems.

Three years ago, bacterial and fungal growth sparked a major renovation at Deer Park. But Jim Edmunds, a senior industrial hygienist and environmental engineer with Jenkins, said no evidence of similar levels of contamination has been found at Timber Grove.

"The biological samples we collected did not show a significant contamination of bacteria or fungus," Mr. Edmunds said. "There is also adequate fresh air being brought into the building."

Mr. Jenkins said that before Mr. Edmunds' April 3 inspection at Timber Grove, there was less outside air coming into the building and school workers adjusted the system to correct the problem.

Workers also replaced filters before testing was conducted, Mr. Edmunds said.

"Some of the problems were corrected immediately by the county," Mr. Jenkins said.

Parent Sally Shapiro said she is pleased to have the study completed, and eager for the cleaning and repairs to be done.

"I will feel even better when all of the work is done and done right," she said.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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