Tuesday, May 12, 2009 (Updated 11:28 pm)
By J. Brian Ewing
GREENSBORO â€” Guilford County Schools officials hope they have resolved mold issues at Oak Ridge Elementary School after students and faculty complained for nearly four years about respiratory problems and other health concerns.Workers are removing rubber-backed carpeting from four classrooms after mold was discovered under the carpet last month. Carpet previously was removed from two other rooms. Classrooms are being moved temporarily until the carpet can be replaced with vinyl tile.The school sent a letter to parents this week about the mold and cleanup. Some parents have pulled their children out of the school because of the problems.Kim Delahantyâ€™s daughter, Kate, will be on medical leave for the rest of this school year. Kate, a fourth-grader at Oak Ridge, began to have bad headaches, a sore throat and red eyes while at school.Delahanty thought it was allergies at first, but after prescription drugs didnâ€™t help she started to ask questions and didnâ€™t like what she heard. Kateâ€™s class was one where mold was found. She and her classmates were moved to another part of the school, but her headaches persisted.Leo Bobadilla , the school systemâ€™s chief operations officer, said the system has spent nearly $600,000 addressing mold since complaints began at the school in 2005. That year, the school system installed a $500,000 dehumidifying system and removed carpet with mold. Since then, workers have cleaned mold from the heating and air conditioning system and had the carpets cleaned with anti-microbial cleaner.Â Results of additional indoor air quality tests are expected soon. Bobadilla said he will address whatever issues are discovered in that testing.With complaints still coming in, Bobadilla met with officials from the state Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Health and Human Services and industrial hygiene experts. Through these meetings, the mold was found under the carpeting. The culprit: a leaking roof.Bobadilla estimates that two-thirds of the systemâ€™s 120 schools need significant maintenance work, including dozens of schools with leaking roofs.Getting those problems fixed could become more difficult if county commissioners cut as much from school maintenance funding as is proposed, Bobadilla said. County Manager Brenda Jones Fox has proposed a $4 million capital projects budget for the schools, $3 million less than the current budget.Â â€œCertainly, youâ€™re not going to see as many roof replacement projects,â€ Bobadilla said.County Commissioner Kirk Perkins said commissioners have a long way to go before approving a budget.He said he thinks that the cuts to maintenance funding are too deep and that he expects to review that recommendation closely.â€œIâ€™m not in favor of cutting that really anymore,â€ Perkins said. â€œIâ€™m not in favor of costing us more in the long run.â€He warned that finding money for maintenance could mean funding cuts elsewhere.
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