Parents outraged after school in Fairfax Co fails to inform parents of mold in classrooms

Parents outraged after school in Fairfax Co fails to inform parents of mold in classrooms. (Q McCray/ABC7) 

Parents were more than upset when we told them about the mold test results at West Springfield High.

Most know of the mold issue in the Sparta trailers.

On Monday, the district said it was all cleaned up, which reassured parent Todd Reese:

“I was appreciative of the email that they were aware of it and took care of it, but this is all new to me.”

Here’s the issue. According to the test results, on the second day of class, the district found out about excessive mold contamination in at least one of the trailers, but still let students and staff use the trailer while it was disinfected.

They were exposed to what’s considered an unsafe amount of mold for the entire first week of school.

“Are you kidding me? I’m mortified,” said parent Melanie Sartain. “I’m absolutely mortified.”

To make matters worse, they didn’t tell parents.

“They missed the boat there,” Reese said. “They should’ve inform us and taken care of business.”

Her son Corbin Sartain said he has class in one of the classrooms that was contaminated.

“In some of my classes it’s hard to breathe and I get itchy eyes.”

We got our hands on pics of mold at West Springfield High the Friday before the first of day class. The following Monday, the Fairfax County School District told us the mold was a non-issue, because they cleaned it up over the weekend.

We know now mold was in fact an issue.

Ideally, the ratio of indoor to outdoor mold should be 1:1 and 5:1 is considered undesirable. According to the test results, at least one of the Sparta trailer classrooms had a ratio of 58:1.

“It’s unfathomable that this could happen and students would be put in this situation,” said Tina Williams, President of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

She said teachers have been complaining about irritated eyes and breathing issues for weeks now and that the district told them they had nothing to worry about.

“Fairfax County Federation of Teachers is extremely concerned about openness and lack of communication as it relates to this case,” she added.

In an email to parents last night, the principal said the mold was caused by AC units left on during the entire summer break.

Here’s the statement we received from Fairfax County Public Schools:

The most recent air quality test results show that total classroom indoor to outdoor total mold ratios are at lower levels than outdoors. The classrooms in the Sparta trailers have all been diligently cleaned and, in fact, all of the trailers have been cleaned, including those where mold was not observed. This is a detailed and ongoing process that involves basic cleaning, evaluation of HVAC systems, inspection of the structures, and testing. The classrooms are safe for occupancy – and they have been safe for occupancy since the start of school - and do not pose a health risk for staff or students. Standards for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no federal regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.

Here is a letter sent by the principal to parents and staff yesterday:

Good Evening,
I would like to address the rumors that are circulating regarding the trailers. The temporary trailer classrooms on campus were not used over the summer. When staff returned in late August, it was discovered that there was mold in some of the trailers. It was determined that the fans had been set to the "on" position and moisture had formed in the trailers, resulting in mold. FCPS maintenance personnel came in and cleaned and remediated the spaces and the school was informed they were safe to occupy. At the request of staff, FCPS performed additional air testing. FCPS has shared that, based on the tests, there are no toxic molds present and verified the trailers are safe to occupy. FCPS has performed multiple tests and has continued to do work on the trailers to ensure that there is not a reoccurrence. This includes recent work to replace some of the HVAC units. FCPS has informed my office that they will continue to closely monitor the trailers during the renovation project to ensure there are not additional issues. The classrooms are safe for occupancy and do not pose a health risk for staff or students.
Thank you,
Michael Mukai
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