City school to remain closed while awaiting air test results for mold

Coleridge-Taylor's library had a leaking roof

April 29, 2004|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The roof leaked so badly above the school library that the books had to be removed, and the pupils were banned. Ceiling tiles had dropped off in places; the carpet was soaked, and the furniture was scattered around the room to avoid the drips.

"What I remember was the stench. I have never seen anything like that," said City Council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who toured the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School where a leaky roof, which was reported in August and repaired recently, had made the library unusable.

As he stood there last week, Mitchell said he thought: "I can't believe I am actually standing in a Baltimore City elementary school where children are learning."

That was last week. By yesterday the library, which is a separate building connected to the main schoolhouse by a hall, had been sealed off and the pupils sent home so that experts could test the air for possible mold contamination.

Last night, Carlton Epps, the school system's chief operating officer, said test results would not be available for 48 hours and that the school would remain closed today and tomorrow. He said it was too early to say whether classes would resume Monday.

Repairs to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's library was one of many expenditures that had been deferred during the school system's financial crisis this past fall and winter, said Epps. The system faces a $58 million deficit.

The school principal notified the administration about the problem in August. Engineers recommended that the school roof be repaired or replaced then.

"Unfortunately, as the budget crisis has consumed everyone's attention, this apparently fell off the radar screen," Epps said.

When a second request for roof repairs was made in January, Epps approved it, he said. But it took a couple of months to get more estimates and obtain additional approvals before work began last month.

The replacement roof over the library will cost $27,000 and will be completed Sunday, if the weather continues to be clear.

But the system will have to replace the ceiling and carpeting and clean the walls and shelves that have mildew and perhaps mold on them. Epps said he does not know the cost of those items.

By the end of next month, the library will be open for the first time this school year.

Despite its physical condition, the West Baltimore school has been improving academically. It was honored Friday -- the day the city Health Department sealed off the library -- for rising test scores and was taken off the state's list of failing schools.

Work on the school was speeded up when Mitchell and council member Catherine E. Pugh complained to the health department and the school administration.

Both council members appeared before the school board Tuesday night to complain about the conditions at the school.

Pugh pledged to help push for more state funding of city school building projects.

The school system has documented about $900 million in repairs and renovations needed to schools, Epps said.

Sun staff writer Lynn Anderson contributed to this article.

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