Howard County Public Schools and the County Executive announced a new agreement to better address mold concerns in their schools. They'll now bring in an independent contractor to conduct air testing.
ABC2 News uncovered that complaints of mold in Howard County Public Schools dated back to 2013. There have been some steps to alleviate concerns but the one-year agreement between the county and school system is meant to help put the issue to rest.
“We were just able to finalize it yesterday to have an MOU, a memorandum of understanding, between the county and the school system to allow an independent third party to come in and do an analysis of the schools that are of a concern. This is something the residents have been wanting to have,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
Concerned parents have been asking for an independent party because they said the school system has failed to be transparent in admitting and addressing mold in certain schools.
“The trust has been broken and I think one way to start repair is to just give us the information, not just their interpretation of the information,” said Vicky Cutroneo, a Howard County parent and creator of the “Mold in Howard County Schools-Information for Parents” Facebook page.
According to the MOU, Howard County will select a qualified contractor to conduct environmental air quality investigations and particularly mold testing.
“The funding will come from the county not the schools system, again we'll be picking the contractor so it's all designed to make sure it's purely independent and we'll focus on the schools that we think are the most of concern in the community,” Kittleman said.
They haven't decided yet which schools will be tested but the agreement states that the age of the building and HVAC system will be taken into account.
Glenwood Middle School is one of the schools where mold was discovered. A new HVAC system was installed last summer but parents still think the school needs to be made a priority.
“That's important but I think we really need to look at the schools where we have health issues that being said, I hope that Glenwood's at the top of the list because no other school has had the issues that we've had,” said Cutroneo.
“I have no problem with that being one of the schools,” said Kittleman. “But I'm pretty confident that that's one of the best schools in Howard County right now because of all the attention.”
There's been a spotlight on the school after multiple reports of students and staff falling ill.
Laura Vallor's 8th grade daughter, Luci, is one of them. She said she's seen small improvements since the new HVAC system was put in but that her daughter still suffers.
“She still has the symptoms of being exhausted every day and by being exhausted I don't mean standard kid's being tired because they stayed up late that's not what I mean. She's exhausted, she still has headaches, she still has neuropathy,” Vallor said.
Health issues that she thinks her daughter wouldn't have if the school system had acted quicker.
“It's a mixed feeling because at the same time I’m really happy that the kids are going to get taken care of now. It's a shame that all of this didn't happen when I was testifying to the Board back in August of 2015,” said Vallor.
County Executive Kittleman said there's no limit on the number of schools they'll test. His administration estimates that each test will cost anywhere from $15,000-$20,000.
“It’s part of making sure our buildings are safe for the people who work there and learn there and also to assure the citizens that everyone’s okay,” Kittleman said.
He said his hope is to start conducting the assessments within the next six months.