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Takoma Park parents push for more action after mold outbreak at school

Parents of children at a Takoma Park elementary school are expected to testify before county officials Thursday about a mold outbreak that many worry has sickened young students in recent weeks.

PTA leaders and affected families from Rolling Terrace Elementary School will outline concerns and present recommendations at a 2 p.m. meeting of the Montgomery County Council’s education committee.

Since a widespread outbreak in early September, mold has been found in 30 classrooms and several other rooms in the school of nearly 900 students. Parents have reported health problems including headaches, asthma flare-ups, rashes and coughs.

School officials have said the school has been cleaned and is safe, and that they are closely monitoring the problem.

Craig Sharman, leader of a PTA-appointed mold task force at Rolling Terrace, said Tuesday night that new blotches of mold have been spotted each of the last four school days, and more needs to be done to get to the bottom of the problem.

The question for many parents, he said, is: “Plan A isn’t working — what’s Plan B?”

Sharman said school officials recently agreed to notify families when new mold is found in a child’s classroom, so that parents can decide whether to keep a child home. Children with allergies and asthma may be particularly vulnerable, he said.

County Council Member Valerie Ervin recently visited the school to hear more about the problem, and as chair of the council’s education committee, will preside at the Thursday committee meeting.

School officials hired an independent firm, M.A. Cecil & Associates, to do air quality sampling, and in a report dated Oct. 17 the firm noted spore levels in acceptable ranges except in two classrooms — B102 and B211.

Still, the report said, “given the variability in mold spore sampling, it is difficult to determine if the sampling results indicate indoor mold activity.”

The report suggested a thorough inspection of the two classrooms and fan coil units, with close attention to “likely areas for water intrusion.” It also recommended that if no mold was found that “a thorough cleaning of the classrooms and units should be conducted.”

School officials said another firm, Building Dynamics, was recently hired to conduct a building-wide inspection and evaluate mold remediation efforts. The work is expected to take two to three weeks, said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig.

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

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