Although schools only recently opened their doors following summer vacation, some Fairfield County middle school students are already getting a week off amid fears and concerns of an ongoing mold problem.
The Coleytown Middle School in Westport will be closed the rest of the week, officials announced on Tuesday afternoon. Students were already scheduled to have an off day on Wednesday in accordance with Yom Kippur, but School Superintendent Colleen Palmer decided to take the rest of the week to try and get the mold problems under control.
In an email to parents on Tuesday afternoon, she cited a rise in absences and medical complaints from students as the cause for shutting things down for a few days.
“The number of absent students exceeded 50, which is double the typical rate, and the nurse’s office handled dozens of students who complained of various health complaints today. Some students and staff have expressed their individual concern about remaining in the school environment, and it was difficult for the nursing staff to determine if the presenting health issues were impacted by the anxiety of those in the school in addition to any other presenting medical symptoms,” she said.
“This period of time will allow the district to conduct a further assessment of the school environment, and all data collected will be shared with all families. These testing results will be prioritized for expedited processing in order that we can confirm through our team of environmental and medical consultants that the school reopens on Monday.”
Officials said that the mold problem initially began in the summer of 2016, prompting an extensive cleanup plan that was scheduled to be completed before the end of the calendar year. However, complications - including the failure of the school’s air conditioning units — combined with hot, humid weather, caused the mold to resurface and spread like wildfire.
“When this mold issue was first identified in the summer, the district considered various scenarios in the event the building would not be ready for the start of school or available for some portion of the school year,” Palmer added. “If at any point in time, the school facility is found not to be appropriate for safe use, the district will relocate the students and staff to an alternate location.”
In response to the pervasive mold problem, a meeting between faculty members, school administrators and parents has been set up from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20 in the Bedford Middle School auditorium.
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