Issues arise in Stamford Public Schools as mold is exposed

Photograph by Harrison Travaglino / Photo Manager.

After mold test results came back on October 30, 2018, Westover Magnet Elementary School announced on their website that “due to elevated mold levels, based on preliminary air quality test results received at 4:00 pm today, the building would be closed immediately for additional remediation.”

The Mold Task Force was created by Superintendent Earl Kim, Mayor David Martin, and former Board of Education President David Mannis. This force is comprised of many city employees who suggested “the removal of all students and staff, instead of relocating them throughout the building.”

For a short period of time, the school was working with the Boys and Girls Club to accommodate childcare for parents who could not do so within short notice.

Although the school was planned to be reopened on Wednesday, November 7, 2018, Stamford Public Schools announced in a statement that the work that needed to be done to create a safe and healthy learning environment for all students and teachers would not be completed in the time frame that was originally projected.

On Wednesday, November 7, the Government Center hosted a public meeting in which concerned parents, staff, and students from multiple different schools gathered to address their concerns about the safety of anyone who has entered the school during the incident.

Westover students had been out of school for four days since the initial problem surfaced before the Mold Task Force had come up with any plan to prevent these students from missing even more days.

City of Stamford Director of Administration Michael Handler opened the meeting by reassuring all attendees that their overall goal is to create a “safe and healthy educational environment.”

The Force is “committed to keeping all students and staff together in one location” and  assured parents and the rest of the Stamford Public Schools community that “[The Mold Task Force’s] first priority is that our students and staff members are safe.”

“I like how they’re not focusing on the past, they’re not pointing fingers about how the mold got there, or whose fault it was. Their top priority was getting a plan for the students and faculty as soon as possible. They are working their hardest right now and pointing fingers later. I think that’s an awesome work ethic to get the school up and running again,” said parent of a first grader at Westover who’ wished to remain anonymous.

Since the cleaning process has become very timely, the issue of money has raised eyebrows. In reference to the Mold Report Status, last updated on October 25, posted on the Mold Task Force website,  nearly $97,000 has been projected as the cost for Westover’s revamp, following behind KT Murphy with just under $139,000 spent. Overall, as of October 25, the mold in Stamford Public Schools has cost nearly $500,000.

When Handler called for a show of hands of who thought the taxpayer’s money should be directed towards the fix of the schools in the district, the majority of hands rose. When it comes to seeking out the mold in other schools, there will be some budgeting for the city altogether.

As students and teachers at Westhill looked at the tables and charts provided by the Mold Task Force on the mold status at all of the schools in the district, it became apparent that Westover is not the only school with these issues. Schools all over the district have a history of similar problems, including Westhill.

Following Tuesday, November 6, Principal Wunder of Westover announced students would partake in field trips on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These trips rotated students by grade level to the Harry Bennett Library, the Bartlett Arboretum, and the Stamford Museum and Nature Center.

The committee in charge of relocating students and staff announced that the former Pitney Bowes office building has been selected to host the students and staff. There was an open house on Monday, November 12, 2018.

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