Howard Co. Environmental Board: "Lack of information" when reviewing school mold reports

Posted at 6:45 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-15 09:06:36-05

The Howard County Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) was unable to conclude whether the Howard County Public School System has been effective in addressing mold concerns at schools because of a lack of information, the board reported to the County Council on Monday.

“We did try to reach out to the school system, did not get them to come and talk with us or give anything to us,” said ESB Chair Ned Tillman at the County Council monthly meeting.

“Wait a minute, you said you reached out to the school system and what happened?” asked Council Chairman Dr. Calvin Ball.

“They did not come to any of our meetings. They did not come to any of our meetings so we could ask them more questions, more detail and they did not come,” Tillman said.

Legislation passed by the County Council in the spring requested that the Board review various reports pertaining to mold in Howard County Public Schools.

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ESB member Christopher Tsien led the initiative to review six reports, some dating back to 2010. He said they could see that the school system had taken corrective actions to fix when moisture or mold was found but he said they were still missing key information.

“What we don't know is whether the Howard County Public School System has a program, a systematic program as I put it, for evaluating problems, for addressing problems that arise, and for determining if the steps taken to address a problem have been effective,” Tsien said.

He added that he requested that information but never heard back.

John White, a spokesman with HCPSS, said 11 of 12 maintenance issues from the Skelly and Loy indoor air quality assessments at 12 different schools had been resolved. “Today, HCPSS called the County’s Environmental Sustainability Board to request a meeting to review the actions in detail,” White wrote in an email.

He added that: “A member of the County’s Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) was on the HCPSS Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) committee, which developed the new protocols that were implemented in every school this school year. The ESB should have these details from its member who sits on our IEQ committee. However, we also will answer any questions about the new IEQ protocols.”

The new protocols include system wide walkthroughs twice a year to identify or report any potential issues.

Tsien said striving for zero mold was a “fool’s errand,” and isn't practical, but he wants to see a consistent system in place where whenever there's a problem they inspect, react, fix, and evaluate.

“What do they do? Does it work? We don't know,” Tsien said.

Chairman Ball said he wasn't thrilled with what he heard at the meeting but is hopeful there can be meaningful change.

“It's disappointing that the school system wasn't more cooperative and forthcoming with information. However, I think that we have an opportunity now especially with the new Board of Education to get some of that information and come together and collaborate and make this school environment a little bit safer for everybody,” Ball said.

Ball added that he plans to put a request in writing to the school system for the information they're still seeking.

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