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    Post: School Mum On Mold Mystery

    Posted by Sharon on 12/14/09

    The following article makes Linda May appear to be as sane
    and ethical as anyone else involved in this school's IAQ

    2009-12-03 Articles
    Schools Mum on Mold Mystery

    by Paul C. Clark
    Staff Writerwrite the authorDecember 03, 2009
    Guilford County Schools has reached the most ludicrous, but
    always most likely, outcome to the long-running Oak Ridge
    Elementary School mystery: no smoking gun as to the cause
    of the symptoms reported for years by teachers and
    students; no one willing to take the legal risk of even
    suggesting one, or of declaring the entire incident a case
    of mass hysteria; and school administrators, despite having
    spent in the neighborhood of $1.5 million on the school,
    scurrying to send students back to the school, which has
    been closed since June.

    The four-year-long legal, environmental and medical farce
    reached its height of asininity at the school board's
    meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1, when paid-by-the-hour school
    board attorney Jill Wilson dope-slapped school board member
    Paul Daniels and Guilford County Schools Chief Operations
    Officer Leo Bobadilla for even talking about talking about
    what is actually wrong, or not wrong, with the school. Oak
    Ridge students have been split among three other schools
    since a wave of headaches, respiratory problems and other
    symptoms forced its closure.

    You heard that right. The school board spent four years and
    a million and a half dollars on testing and remediation,
    called in the National Institute for Occupational Safety
    and Health (NIOSH), part of the US Centers for Disease
    Control and Prevention the gold standard in figuring out
    what is wrong with public buildings spent months running
    around fixing things NIOSH and a big-dollar New England
    consulting firm, Turner Group, wouldn't exactly say were
    the problem with the building, and yet no one will talk
    about what anybody found out.

    Lord knows there is data out there. Guilford County Schools
    has released reams (no exaggeration) of testing results.
    The school has had a recurring mold problem, a questionable
    heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, is
    reported to have had a host of problems during construction
    (whose fault, a current lawsuit will have to determine),
    and has generated a passel of reported symptoms ranging
    from the scary spontaneous nosebleeds to the bizarre
    spontaneous puberty as if elementary school students
    didn't have problems enough. But no one not Guilford
    County Schools, not NIOSH and not the gaggle of highly paid
    testing services that have examined the school, will say
    what that data adds up to. And that doesn't seem to bother
    most of the school board members.

    Daniels, who tries to ask questions that need to be asked
    and that thousands of viewers watching the televised school
    board members are probably screaming at their TV screens to
    be asked, but that are somehow considered too gauche for
    the other school board members to bring up still lacks
    the confidence to just ask them, whatever the rest of the
    mildly-divorced-from-reality school board members think. In
    this case, he hemmed and hawed, starting off with a
    masterpiece of understatement that there were "a couple
    of lingering questions" about Oak Ridge. Truer, or more
    obvious, words were never spoken.

    Daniels asked if there were any concrete results of the
    investigations, or any clear medical determinations on the
    reported symptoms.

    Guilford County Schools Western Region Superintendent
    Angelo Kidd, who was fielding questions about Oak Ridge at
    the time, responded that he couldn't really figure out what
    Daniels was asking. That made Kidd sound a little dim, even
    given that the question as posed wasn't a model of clarity.
    Anyone in the audience could have translated Daniels'
    questions for him: What caused hundreds of Oak Ridge
    students and teachers to report a wave of symptoms, has
    that cause been remedied, and when, and why, is Guilford
    County Schools moving students back into Oak Ridge
    Elementary School?

    As Daniels asked more probing questions, Kidd covered
    himself in less and less glory, fumbling to reply. "We do
    know we've had issues in the building," he said. "The
    complaints were building for years."

    It took $1.5 million, the relocation of 700 elementary
    students and the top experts in the country to determine
    that the school has issues? Say it ain't so, Angelo!

    Daniels continued doggedly, sharpening his questions. If
    there were objectively verifiable health conditions,
    wouldn't someone have said what caused them? Is anyone
    willing to say mold is, or isn't, to blame? Have outside
    doctors diagnosed any widespread disease among students
    that can be environmentally caused?

    At that point, Wilson stepped in, telling the school board
    she wouldn't advise any of the school system's
    administrators to analyze the findings. Daniels looked
    understandably perplexed by the statement. The Oak Ridge
    mystery has played out in banner headlines, screaming
    television spots and public meetings, has been the subject
    of years of debate and worry among parents, has drawn
    national attention and no one can hint at its solution?
    And the school board is supposed to happily tell parents to
    send their kids back into the school without saying a word
    of what its herculean efforts have uncovered?

    Bobadilla kicked in that the determination of the Guilford
    County Department of Public Health, made in July before
    the school system spent hundreds of thousands more dollars
    investigating and supposedly fixing the school that the
    symptoms were caused by poor ventilation, was the best
    information on the cause of the symptoms. That echoes what
    school officials have said privately, as they clearly think
    that at least some of the symptom reports were caused by
    the HVAC system, or by media-generated hysteria. But even
    the health department said the reported symptoms were
    statistically significant, and no one has yet explained why
    a virtually new school has had leaks, wet floors and
    strange sewage smells since even before its reopening.

    Even that much of a hint was too much for Wilson, who
    focused on Daniels' offhand statement that he knew
    epidemiology was not Bobadilla's area of expertise. Wilson
    said that Daniels was correct in suggesting they had no
    expertise her lawyerly way of blunting the liability risk
    of anything Bobadilla might blurt out. But Bobadilla wasn't

    The net result of what Bobadilla and Kidd wouldn't say was
    that the school system is planning to send students back to
    Oak Ridge Elementary School in January or February, without
    hinting what was, or wasn't, wrong with the school, to
    protect the school system from any lawsuits that might

    It's hard to see that tactic working. Some Oak Ridge
    parents are enraged because they think there's something
    wrong with the school and aren't sure it has been fixed.
    Others, probably more, are enraged because their children
    have been crammed into ill-suited, cramped temporary
    quarters for months. All the parents are united in wanting
    something resembling closure on the issue, and are running
    out of patience with the school system. The reams of test
    data provide ammunition enough for lawsuits on either side,
    no matter what administrators and school board members do
    or don't say.

    School board member Darlene Garrett tried one last time to
    get an answer to the smoking-gun question. "Have we found
    any culprits so far?" she asked.

    Wilson stepped in again, saying the subject wasn't
    appropriate for open session. School board Chairman Alan
    Duncan told her to raise the question again in closed
    session, of which the school board had two that
    evening. "You ought to get an answer to that question," he

    Whatever the answer to that question, parents, teachers,
    students and taxpayers footing the bill for the Oak Ridge
    clean-up aren't likely to hear it, at least until discovery
    ends in the school system's lawsuit against Lyon
    Construction of King, North Carolina, or any future
    lawsuits. Lyon denies any wrongdoing in the construction of
    Oak Ridge, and says it is being made a scapegoat for the
    school board's decisions.

    Guilford County Schools is trying to play it both ways
    downplaying any problems with the school, to limit its
    liability in parent lawsuits, and claiming major problems
    in the school's construction, to win its suit against Lyon
    Construction. It's an odd balancing act.

    The school board also unanimously re-elected Duncan
    chairman, and school board member Amos Quick vice chairman,
    in what has to be the most yawn-inducing board
    reorganization every year in Guilford County. No board
    members nominated other candidates, and there was no

    "We look forward to another year," Duncan said. "And it's
    going to be an adventurous one, our superintendent warns

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