- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — When Beth Murphy returned to Maryland, she expected her concerns about mold in public schools had been left behind in Florida. Then she walked into Oak Hill Elementary in Severna Park.

Mrs. Murphy said she detected a musty smell throughout the school and that the ceiling tiles looked bowed from moisture. Teachers told her they take allergy medicine during the school year and use plastic-coated paper clips because the metal ones rust.

Last week, Principal Cheryl Vauls said twice the problem had been resolved. She told Mrs. Murphy and others at a Parent Teacher Organization meeting that any such problems were resolved this summer, when Oak Hill and five others county schools were treated for mold. Mrs. Vauls later told a reporter “it was a little thing and it’s done.”

However, Mrs. Murphy remains unconvinced, saying she heard the same story while living in Weston, Fla., and her son, Richard, was in fourth grade. She said school officials said there was no mold problem, in spite of her son having allergic reactions and a skin rash.

The mold problem in Anne Arundel County resurfaced in August after two weeks of high humidity. Six schools underwent major cleanup efforts. Three of them — including Oak Hill — even had their library books sanitized. Crews needed 10 days to clean the Magothy River and Severn River middle schools, housed in one complex.

Still, Mrs. Murphy thinks the mold could be part of a indoor-air-quality issue that creates mold problems.

Mold is also a problem in the public school systems in Calvert and Dorchester counties.

Jim Marlett, director of operations in the Calvert County school system, acknowledged that small problems occur during the summer, but said technicians continuously monitor the indoor-air quality.

There are many kinds of mold and all of them can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sheila Finlayson, president of a teachers association in Anne Arundel County, said fellow teachers are also concerned about their health.

“This is a growing concern, and the problem is going unaddressed,” she said.

Problems are addressed on a “case-by-case basis as you see it,” said Daniel La Hart, the county school system’s environmental-programs manager.

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