Thursday, April 26, 2001

Mold scare closes second room

Lawrenceburg High waits to close two more

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAWRENCEBURG — Lawrenceburg High School officials closed a second classroom Wednesday because of mold contamination, but backed away from an earlier decision to close two others, saying it would cause too much disruption for students.

        Anthony Dietrich, principal of the Dearborn County school, had closed one classroom Tuesday that recent test results revealed had potentially dangerous levels of the mold stachybotrys chartarum. At the same time he said he would close three more Wednesday.

        Mr. Dietrich learned the results of mold testing of five classrooms from the Enquirer Tuesday.

        The Dearborn County Health Department had the test results Saturday but did not forward them to school officials.

        The affected classrooms contain other types of mold that could potentially be a health hazard, according to laboratory officials who conducted the testing.

        The two classrooms that remain occupied average about 24 students in each of seven daily class periods.

        Moving hundreds of students to temporary classes would have been too disruptive to the 500-student high school, said Mr. Dietrich.

        “We're going to take care of this as quickly as possible. But we will move the other two classes after we talk to the health department,” said Mr. Dietrich.

        Lawrenceburg parent Donna Thacker was angered by the school's refusal to immediately remove students from all mold-infested classrooms, a precaution recommended by officials of the mold laboratory.

        “What is more disruptive than a health hazard?” asked Ms. Thacker. “And why are they waiting for the health department? The health department has already shown themselves not to be on top of things,” she said, referring to the department's delay in notifying school officials of the mold testing results.

        Mr. Dietrich sent a letter home to parents Wednesday that stated “the health department has assured us that children are not at risk. We will do everything necessary to maintain safe and healthy classrooms.”

        Moreover, he said no student showing any signs of mold-exposure illness would be required to stay in the two remaining classrooms with high mold levels. He said attendance was within the normal range for Wednesday's classes.

        Dr. Gary Scudder, top health officer of the Dearborn County Health Department, was unavailable for comment, but John Grace, environmental health specialist for the department, said the department's recommendations are expected to be completed by Friday.

        Some parents say they have complained for months that mold underneath peeling wallpaper in some of the high school classrooms was making some students ill.


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