School renovation raises concern for pupils' health

Parents fear repair work is making children ill

May 11, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County public school officials spent last night trying to allay the health fears of parents whose children attend a southwest county elementary school that is being renovated.

Several parents at Baltimore Highlands Elementary School on Annapolis Road contend their children have suffered from rashes to migraine headaches as a result of the renovations.

One complaint has been filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It was investigated, and no violations were found at the 600-pupil school, an agency spokesman said.

School officials said they have followed all necessary precautions to protect the children from any danger.

"We've assured the folks that everything has been carried out as it should have been," said Charles Herndon, a spokesman for the school system.

That didn't prevent about 75 parents and students from filing into the school gymnasium last night and peppering officials with questions about the work.

The most emotional testimony was from Robert Noble, a second-grade teacher at Highlands. Noble was afflicted with a rash and migraine headaches shortly after the renovations began in March, he said. He left on sick leave last week, he said.

"I left Friday and I haven't had any rashes or migraines," he said.

The $3.1 million school project is part of renovations under way at 40 Baltimore County schools. The work, which includes everything from replacing ceilings to ventilation repairs, is included in a $560 million, five-year renovation project for the school system. The Highlands renovations are scheduled to be completed in August.

The biggest concern relayed by parents last night involved concrete dust and fiberglass particles. Denise Gibbs, a Halethorpe mother who said her son has become ill because of the renovations, estimated that she's talked to the parents of about 20 kids who also have experienced problems.

"I have concerns about the dust," Gibbs said.

Michael Walther, environmental project manager for construction manager 3D/International, said workers test the air daily to make sure that asbestos and fiberglass are not being released into the air.

"All the regulatory requirements are being met," Walther said.

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