Mold under control, contractor tells parents at Takoma Park school that had outbreak

Parents worried about student illnesses after a mold outbreak at a Takoma Park school said an outside contractor hired by the school system told PTA members Monday that the recurring problem is under control.

No mold has been seen for a couple of weeks, said Craig Sharman, head of a PTA task force on mold at Rolling Terrace Elementary School. Sharman said parents were glad for the progress, but are taking a “wait-and-see” view of whether the fungus is gone for good at the school of nearly 900 children.

“Many of us want to remain vigilant that this does not reoccur,” said Rolling Terrace PTA president Mindy Kassaraba.

Thirty classrooms and several other rooms at Rolling Terrace were affected by the outbreak in early September. Since then, blotches of mold have been spotted a number of times, and as recently as mid-to-late October.

Parents were not informed early on, and many later worried that sicknesses their children were experiencing were related to the fungus. According to parents, a number of children came down with coughs, rashes, headaches and asthma flare-ups. Whether such troubles were caused by the mold — or cleanup materials — is unclear. Last month PTA parents called for a health survey to document the extent of sicknesses. The idea was not pursued, they said.

Montgomery County school officials have said the building is safe and that they should have done better with communication. They attributed the outbreak to a humid summer, improperly set thermostats and a malfunctioning mechanical system.

School officials have brought in two outside firms to evaluate mold problems. Most recently, the firm Building Dynamics was hired to conduct a campus-wide inspection and evaluate mold remediation efforts.

Building Dynamics representatives attended a Monday PTA meeting to update parents.

A new report from Building Dynamics, dated Oct. 29, concluded Rolling Terrace is safe to occupy, clean-up was comprehensive, and air quality has been restored to normal.

It said school system repairs to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system “appear to have restored humidity control.”

The firm is still in the process of a more detailed engineering evaluation, with further conclusions and recommendations expected in a follow-up report.

Schools spokesman Dana Tofig said Montgomery officials would continue to monitor the issue closely. School officials said mold has been reported in other school buildings since July, but none have experienced problems on the same scale as Rolling Terrace.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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