Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Scarlet Letter

Sunday I wrote about driving forces in Howard County real estate and how parents might soon be making decisions based on the health quality of local schools. Monday the school air quality tests for twelve Howard County schools were released. The schools are:

Centennial Lane Elementary School

Elkridge Elementary School

Glenelg High School

Glenwood Middle School

Laurel Woods Elementary School

Lisbon Elementary School

Mount View Middle School

Pointers Run Elementary School

Rockburn Elementary School

St. John's Lane Elementary School

Talbot Springs Elementary School

Wilde Lake High School


Two important things for you to know:

1. Just because you don't see your child's school here doesn't necessarily mean there is no mold in your school. It means only that it hasn't been tested. I believe that these particular schools were chosen on the basis of pre-existing reports and concerns. I hope more schools will now be tested.

2. It is my understanding that these reports, prepared by a company independent of the school system, vary significantly from those performed in the past by the HCPSS-approved Aria Environmental. Parents and teachers in mold-affected schools long called for an independent assessment of school conditions. As you read these reports it is easy to see why.

From the Mold in Howard County Schools Facebook Page:

"Results of the independent air quality testing conducted as part of a Memorandum of Understanding between the County Executive's office and HCPSS. I would like to thank CE Allan Kittleman and his staff for assisting the HCPSS community with this endeavor. Thank you Deputy Chief of Staff, Jahantab Siddiqui for patiently answering my many questions and concerns on behalf of the community.

Share with your school communities."

About that scarlet letter. The letter emblazoned on poor Hester Prynne's clothing in Hawthorne's novel was a letter A, for adultery. The scarlet letter that emerges from these reports is also an A. For aspergillus. You can learn more about these symptoms of aspergillosis here.

As you read the list of symptoms, keep in mind that most of what you are reading has already been experienced by students, teachers, and staff in mold-affected schools. This is not some vague description of what could happen. It has happened, is still happening, and has resulted in lost school time, lost work time, hospitalizations, transfer requests, and workman's compensation cases.

In my comments section Sunday came the following:

"What really saddened me is when then Board of Ed Chair and pediatrician, Dr. Janet Siddiqui, wrote to parents at Glenwood MS and said "at no point has this mold issue been a public health hazard for our students and staff." That email was sent just a few weeks after a couple of educators from GMS filed workman comp cases for health concerns related to mold against the school system, which were found in their favor. The ethics of that email are unbelievable to me - especially from a doctor. Is your reputation more important than the health of students and staff? If so, what other things are being hidden from the community?"

What other things are being hidden from the community? From the look of these reports, that's a question worth asking.

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