Angry Parents Walk Out of Meeting on School Mold

The classrooms were cleaned out, but parents remain skeptical

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Parents at a Brooklyn school building demanded answers from education officials at an informational meeting Monday evening about construction conditions they say are creating health hazards for their children. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

    Frustrated parents at PS 17 and MS 577 in Brooklyn walked out of a meeting with school officials Monday night when they heard their children would have to stay in their building where mold has been discovered.

    Hundreds of parents from the pair of Williamsburg schools, housed in the same building, were gathered for the latest informational meeting on the mold problem. The most recent testing, done last week, revealed black mold inside seven classrooms.

    Eighth-grade teacher Milica Cavic showed the deputy schools chancellor pictures of water damage inside the classrooms. She and parents are convinced the moisture is causing a mold problem that is making them sick.

    "We have children who have watery eyes, I have many children put their heads down perpetually with headaches," said Cavic. "Asthma, there's a lot of asthma, chest pains." 

    Some parents have been keeping their children at home out of concern for their health and said they wanted more thorough answers from school officials before the children returned to school.

    "A lot of kids with asthma are coming to school and leaving early," parent Diane Rivera said before the meeting. She said she has been keeping her son home.

    The city is spending $10 million to repair the water leaks and renovate the building. The entire school is shrouded in scaffolding, and students say they can't open windows for ventilation because of the construction.

    But DOE official John Shea told parents, "I can assure you that the ventilation system not working has nothing to do with the growth of mold."

    School officials told parents at the meeting all rooms have been tested and mold has been remediated, but many remained skeptical.  

    "How can you honestly stand up there and lie to us directly by saying the school is safe but still further testing needs to be done?" said Luis Santiago, a parent.

    A few students attended the meeting dressed in hazmat suits, the kind worn by the inspectors sent to the school to test for mold. 

    "All the workers are wearing them," said eighth-grade student John Witkowski. "Students should be wearing them, too. How do we know that we're all safe?"

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