Fairfield school officials say mold issues at Dwight are under control

A photo posted on Facebook that shows what appears to be mold on a classroom wall at Dwight School. School officials say the issue is being addressed. Fairfield,CT. 10/24/18

A photo posted on Facebook that shows what appears to be mold on a classroom wall at Dwight School. School officials say the issue is being addressed. Fairfield,CT. 10/24/18

Contributed / Contributed photo

FAIRFIELD — The schools superintendent gave assurances Tuesday that if she felt there was any danger from mold at Dwight School, she would close the building.

“If we felt like a building were unsafe we would have already called it off,” Toni Jones said, in addressing the mold concerns during her report to the Board of Education.

“It scares people,” Jones said. “We recognize that, we’re being responsive to that. We’re doing everything we know to do... If we got to the point the building was unhealthy and we need to move kids, we will move them.”

A meeting with Dwight parents is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m., Jones said.

The issue came to the forefront when a former parent posted a picture of mold on a wall in kindergarten classroom to a Facebook page. She said she battled school officials for over a year, claiming her child’s illness was caused by mold at the school. Her child, she said, has since been moved to Burr and is no longer asthmatic.

A letter sent by Principal Mimi Maniscalco to parents said she has followed all of the protocols and recommendations from Central Office and Woodward and Curran, a environmental testing firm. The town’s health department has also been involved, according to Jones.

“As you all know, we have had building issues this year at Dwight which include damp conditions, strange odors and most recently a greyish substance behind one of the wooden boards in one of our K classrooms,” Maniscalco’s letter said. The results of Woodward and Curran’s environmental assessment were sent to parents last week.

She said it was determined that they needed to remove the substance with a cleaning agent and then paint over it. “Please understand that the staff and students’ health and safety is my number one priority,” Maniscalco wrote. “I have done and will continue to do my best to advocate for our school community.” She said when the substance was found, she immediately called the Central Office staff.

According to Jones, the picture posted on Facebook was taken of a wall directly beneath a wall-mounted air conditioning unit. She said Woodward and Curran inspected the room, and opened the wall cavity in the area and determined no mold was present. In addition, staff removed the remainder of the trim across the entire wall.

Mold forced the town to shut down McKinley School in October of 2000. The building was demolished and a new school constructed. Next door in Westport, Coleytown Middle School was recently shuttered due to mold concerns.

Jones said a lot of parent concerns came in, especially Monday night and Tuesday morning, following the Facebook post. She said they have asked Woodward and Curran to come out and do a second round of testing, this time of the air in the building, even though that next level testing wasn’t recommended.

The air testing was scheduled for Thursday, and Jones said they should have the results by Monday. Air samples will be taken in several different zones, and in both wings of the school, as well as outside.

“If there’s mold in the building, it’s going to be picked up,” Thomas Cullen, the district’s director of operations, said.

Board member Nicholas Aysseh said he has surface mold on the windows in his home. “So the air quality testing really encompasses everything,” he said.

Another board member Trish Pytko, said she’d heard about a problem with water seeping through the tiles or flooring at Dwight.

“It was surface water,” Cullen said. “There were several schools where we saw this when it got really damp and humid.”

The schools all use an EPA program, called Tools for Schools, to monitor and address air quality issues.

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