Mold at Takoma Park elementary school due to budget shortfalls

TAKOMA PARK, Md. (WJLA) -- It’s a new routine at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park – school lets out and the mold remediation begins.

Last Tuesday brought the first report of spores, and by Wednesday, the count had reached 30.

"We saw some additional growth and some re-growth, and we knew that it wasn't just a mold problem, there was a deeper issue with the systems in the building, said principal Jennifer Connors.

That issue is an air conditioner more than 25 years old, which cooled certain rooms to 49 degrees over the muggy Labor Day Weekend. As a result, condensation bred mold, and frustrated parents.

There are 880 students at Rolling Terrace Elementary; so far, none have reported falling ill from the mold.

"It's too bad, because the health of our children are affected by the incompetence and not taking a proactive approach and replacing the systems that have been a problem for years," said parent Danielle Hermey.

Last October, superintendent Joshua Starr asked the County Council for extra funding. But his request was denied, meaning the District is $28 million behind on capital improvement projects.

Those projects include repairing and replacing fire alarms and public address systems, water and sewer systems, floors, ceilings, windows and doors. It's a figure that will grow to $140 million by 2017, and $280 million by 2022 if nothing changes.

In a letter from Starr back in October 2012 when he was requesting extra improvement funds, he wrote that the district has to stop ignoring his schools' infrastructure needs.

“We have placed a strong priority on increasing capacity in MCPS over the past several years, which certainly makes sense," Starr wrote. "However, we cannot ignore the infrastructure needs of our buildings, especially if we are going to be using many of our facilities for a longer period of time."

All the principal of Rolling Hills really wants, though, is a safe, healthy place for her students to learn.

"Our students, our parents, our teachers deserve to be able to come to school and focus on teaching and learning versus on the maintenance of the building," Connors said.

Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee, provided this statement: “I share the concerns of parents and students at Rolling Terrace Elementary School as the school system works to remediate the mold found there. Each year there is a large backlog of schools that need heating and air conditioning and other critical system improvements, and the school system is responsible for prioritizing and implementing all of these projects. Just this fiscal year, the Council appropriated additional funding—beyond what was recommended in the County Executive’s budget—for MCPS to deal with these issues, but because of overall budget affordability, it was impossible to clear up the buildup of projects across the system. I have contacted the school system about this issue, and I will continue to monitor the remediation efforts.”