Board of Ed. closes Indian Hill classroom
By maura dowgin
HOLMDEL Room 4 at Indian Hill School was closed last week following a memo from the township Board of Health to the Board of Education warning of possible mold problems in the classroom.
Parents of the fourth-graders who used the room were reassured by school officials that the students will not be put back into Room 4 until mold-level test results ensure the students safety.
The Board of Education moved the fourth-graders out of Room 4 on Oct. 29 and ordered environmental tests to be conducted on the room.
The students were moved to a science lab in the school as a result of Board of Health recommendations and parental complaints regarding students allergic reactions to mold in the classroom.
Parents agreed they will not be fully satisfied until the cause of the problem is identified and removed from the room.
"Please dont put them back until you find out whats causing them to be sick," said Francine Campis, mother of a Room 4 student.
Campis fourth-grade daughter currently has an upper respiratory infection, she said.
The tests on the room include indoor air quality, temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and two tests for mold, said Dominic Carrea, assistant schools superintendent. These tests are being performed by Tiffany-Bader Environmental of Lawrenceville, Carrea said.
The tests for air quality, temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide have all shown the room to be safe for the children, said Carrea.
The results of the first mold test have determined that there is not a dangerous amount of mold in that room, Carrea said. The Board of Education is still waiting for the results of the second mold test, which should be in sometime this week, he added.
School officials did not contact the municipal, county or state boards of health about the problem.
Parents of students in the school contacted the township Board of Health, which recommended the children be taken out of the room and observed to see if their health improves or the symptoms change when not in Room 4, said Donald Harter, Board of Health chairman.
The state Board of Health and Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health Association, which found out about the situation through published reports, are currently inspecting the classroom and will report on its findings in the near future, said Nathan Rudy, state Board of Health spokesman.
Parents said their children felt sick in school and felt fine after they were home.
Carole Gennusa, mother of a Room 4 student, said her daughter came home from school visibly ill and felt fine within an hour of being home.
The symptoms include headache, stomach ache, nausea, fatigue, nose bleeds, sore throat, and irritated or burning eyes, parents said.
The Board of Education is not convinced the sickness is necessarily caused by mold, which may or may not be in the room. School officials said there are many different causes for these types of symptoms and there is no way of knowing what is causing these children to be sick.
Room 4 has had mold problems in the past. Children were moved out of the room last year after test results showed the levels of mold in the room were above normal.
After last years mold scare, the Board of Education said it worked hard to get the room cleaned for this school year. Ventilation, book shelves, black boards and the roof were replaced over the summer, said Carrea.
The new roof had a biocide put on it.
"Biocide is a chemical that kills any mold or anything that could be growing on the roof," Carrea said.
The room was then tested in May to ensure the students safety, Carrea said.
Campis said testing the room right after the cleaning is not good enough.
The parents brought Bill Sothern, an industrial hygienist from Micro Ecologies Environmental Health Specialists, New York City, with them to the meeting as an expert witness.
Sothern said the previous tests represent one moment in time and are not comprehensive.
Sothern also said a report from the Indian Hill nurses office indicated the students in Room 4 went to the nurse significantly more times than students from other classrooms.
The nurses report does not indicate any causes for the illnesses, Carrea said.
"There is nothing on the nursing report that would indicate anything but kids going to the nurse," said Thomas E. Baumlin III, Board of Education member.
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