Is there a mold problem at East Hartford High School? Some teachers and students are worried mold is making them sick.
It was teachers who contacted NBC Connecticut anonymously, afraid of punishment for speaking out. They told us students and staff have been ill and complaining to school officials of respiratory symptoms related to humidity and mold exposure.
The school district handed over a new air quality report, they say was done by an outside environmental agency clearing them of mold issues in any classroom. Monday, NBC Connecticut learned at least one classroom is closed right now because of this very issue.
Kevin Arzola is a senior at East Hartford High School. “That looks not good, in all my years here haven’t seen that!”
But other students and staff from inside East Hartford High School shared photos of moldy keyboards, ceiling tiles and pictures of more mold on equipment and in the hallways. They say the pictures were taken in the last three weeks. Arzola saw a handful of students taking precaution on Monday.
Arzola told NBC Connecticut, “people (students) have been wearing masks, like I’ve seen 4 people telling me there’s mold in the classroom and they’re not allowed to teach in there, so they have to teach in the library.”
That first floor classroom, room number 102, according to district officials, was closed Friday because of mold, and kept closed Monday as a precaution, even after the mold was disinfected and removed. Junior Makyia Bryant says she’s seen the fungus and is worried for her health.
“There’s mold that’s been growing in the classes and right now I’m sick and don’t know if it’s because of the mold, but teachers have been calling out sick because of the mold,” she said.
This memo from Principal Matthew Ryan to parents acknowledges surface mold and mildew growth because of the oppressive humidity in recent weeks, that custodial staff has worked hard he says to address, which this concerned dad is happy to hear.
"My daughter, she has sinus problems and her sinus problems might be worse due to mold,” said Thomas Blade.
In the same letter, Principal Ryan also references an air quality testing report of 10 classrooms, offices, the library and two loading docks outside that the district had done on September 10.
Ryan telling parents “we are pleased to see that none of the classrooms tested had counts higher than outdoor “control” samples and as such, there is no air quality issues for students or staff.
“If they don’t think it’s dangerous, actually not dangerous I feel like they’ve done a fine job, but if it’s actually harming people they should do better,” Junior Bryant added.
According to that same report by TRC Solutions in Windsor, their only issue was with House 11, the office for 11th grade students. It cited higher concentrations of aspergillus:penicillium fungal spores, ten times more than what was found by the loading docks tested outside that same day.
Bryant admits that's concerning, “I feel like school needs to do better with that.”
The superintendent's office notes there have been no complaints near that 11th grade office.
"House 11 is an office area which had an reading of one type of spores greater than the outside sample. Ironically, there were no complaints from this area, it was chosen for the test as a "control" area. TRC's advice to us was to just inspect the area to make sure there was not a source present. The space was thoroughly inspected and no source found. It is a ground level space which gets its fresh air from a vent right near a mulched landscape bed, and this may have led to a higher reading at that point in time. In aggregate, the spore count was well below action level, and again there were no complaints from that area," the superintendent's office said.
The superintendent of schools did not respond to NBC Connecticut's requests to interview on camera.
The principal and director of facilities met with staff on Monday.
There are no federal or state standards for acceptable or hazardous levels of spore counts. The most recent air quality report submitted to the state in 2016, marked all checkboxes off as “good.”
Members of the school board, including chairman Bryan Hall did not respond for comment, neither did the teacher's union representative Annie Irvine.