Rosedale school makes children ill, parents say

February 27, 1997|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

In what has become an unfortunate ritual in Baltimore County schools, parents at Red House Run Elementary in Rosedale are blaming their children's illnesses on the building.

Parents yesterday said they are worried about a large number of reported headaches, stomach aches, respiratory problems, rashes and dizziness -- and want the building tested for environmental hazards.

Some are threatening to boycott this year's Maryland School Performance Assessment Program -- the test known as MSPAP -- unless the environmental testing is performed.

"You don't know if this is permanently damaging them," said Susan Skrzecz, who said her son has been chronically ill since fall.

Facilities officials, trying to rein in such crises in a year when parents have forced three schools to close for testing and repairs, at a cost of more than $1.5 million so far, said there are no signs of unsafe conditions at the school.

Administrators have identified eight complaints of illness potentially related to the building, and attendance has been normal, said schools spokesman Donald I. Mohler.

Interviews with 11 children revealed their symptoms varied widely and showed no trend, officials say.

The school plans to work with the county health department to evaluate symptoms through a survey sent to all parents yesterday, then decide if testing is needed.

Parent anxiety -- fueled in part by recently highly publicized cases at Deer Park, Fullerton and Bear Creek elementaries -- rose at Red House Run in the past several weeks as parents swapped stories about childrens' symptoms.

At least two to three dozen parents crashed what was supposed to be a PTA executive board meeting with facilities officials Tuesday, according to parents who were at the meeting.

Some parents wanted to bring in their own consultants to conduct tests at no charge to the school system but were told they could not.

Jack T. Sgroi, who said his son has been ill and his daughter has a rash, said he fears subjecting children to a potential hazard while they wait for survey results, expected March 19.

Facilities officials, trying to balance a vast group of deteriorating buildings and scarce dollars to fix them, have set up a system that calls for investigating health symptoms first, then deciding about testing and other measures.

"You need to have some sort of pattern, to know what to test for," said facilities director Gene Neff.

Neff said a review of the building conducted last week, showed no significant problems.

Crews changed filters and washed coils in heating and cooling units.

They also began replacing controls related to comfort, not health concerns.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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