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Mold May Go
Away Sooner?

By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE — February 11, 2003 – The Sullivan West school board meeting on Thursday night, February 6, at the Jeffersonville campus again featured public concerns about the mold situation at the Delaware Valley campus in Callicoon – along with the results of a test on the situation by Testwell, an Albany lab company hired by the district.
According to Superintendent Michael Johndrow, the company identified a mold infestation in the upstairs section of the school, but “it is not of the dangerous kind for the average person.”
So with the exception of the worst-affected spot, the home economics classroom, students continue to attend classes throughout the building. But that doesn’t mean the district thinks the problem is solved, said Johndrow.
“We’re doing everything we feel we can at this time,” he said, citing the presence of special air exchangers and dehumidifiers, along with increased cleanings by the janitorial staff and quick-fix roof repairs to correct leakage.
And the total roof replacement scheduled for this summer may be bumped up to the 11-day Easter break to resolve the issue.
Although he admitted that there may be some people who can’t work in the DV building, Johndrow said the mold has been in existence for at least a decade, possibly more. And, he added, “there’s mold in about 85 percent of homes. It’s everywhere.”
That was of little consolation to three parents at the board meeting, who had attended to voice their concerns about the potentially unhealthy respiratory effects of airborne mold.
“I took a look at the school today,” remarked Fremont Center resident and SW bus driver Ken Drake, who has a daughter with an allergy in the school, “and I was sick. The roof isn’t going to be the total fix. You have water running in the walls into the basement downstairs.”
Drake said he contacted the state Board of Health and was told that, if there’s visible mold, “get professional help now.”
Drake’s wife, Patty, said their daughter, a junior at DV, has stayed out of school because of her allergic condition, which they feel is aggravated by the mold. A note from a local doctor, in fact, recommends that she stay out of mold-infested areas.
Johndrow, however, said he feels she should be in school. Save for one child who stayed out and came back, Johndrow said, “Nobody can actually say it’s in direct relation to the mold. We’ve had kids in that building for years with no effects. . . . A lot of children have issues this time of year. . . . I don’t think there’s any more mold in there today than we had before the holidays.”
Another resident, who identified herself only as Georgette for fear of district “reprisals,” said she recently entered the DV building and emerged with a headache and nausea.
“It’s bacteria,” she said angrily. “You’ve known about this problem for years. Why didn’t you do something in the beginning?”
After reminding her that he had signed on as DV’s superintendent in 1998, years after the problem was first noted, Johndrow said that now the district is “going to clean, and we’re going to get our people trained. We’re trying anything and everything we have.”
In other business, board members and educators expressed concern with the state budget mess, saying they’re worried that proposed educational cuts could wreck the public school system. A teacher’s union representative, Carol Slotkin, urged residents to contact their lawmakers about increasing educational aid.
Also, board members opted to think about a request from neighboring property owner Bill Boucher to pave an emergency access road proposed for the high school in Lake Huntington. Initially, a stone trail with a gate was intended to connect the school’s parking lot with Crestwood Road for emergency purposes, but since the road is on Boucher’s land (which is planned to be a housing development), he wants the school to pave it at a cost of $15,000-$20,000.
Speaking of the high school, Johndrow informed the board that all the plumbing and electrical work, along with most of the heating system, is complete, and Turner Construction Company hopes to be able to turn the building over to the district in June.
Also, Business Manager Keith Menges presented the board with a revised revenue report in line with state education department guidelines. The revision was a result of criticisms board member Arthur Norden leveled at Menges last month, and although he was pleased with the changes, Norden said it should be simplified further.
Menges agreed to talk with the district treasurer about more revisions, but in the meantime he expressed no fondness for the current report style.
“I think it’s more confusing in a lot of ways, but that’s the way the state wants it,” said Menges.
Menges also informed the board that the much-ballyhooed state lottery funds, which are supposed to go toward education, are actually considered part of the basic formula in determining state aid to school districts. When the lottery was first formed, he explained, those funds were used as additional aid to districts, but now the state makes it part of the basic package.
“It’s not like if everyone went out and bought more lottery tickets it would help us, regrettably,” he said.
Finally, Dr. Bob Paquet, the pastor of the Hankins Assembly of God, informed the board that he wanted to clarify his position regarding tolerance, especially since he serves on the district’s Anti-Bias Committee.
“I do not want anyone to interpret this . . . to imply that I am in any way opposed to the mission of the Anti-Bias Committee or to the need to teach our young people as well as ‘some older folks’ the true meaning of tolerance,” he said in a prepared statement. “However, I am concerned that while seeking a righteous and needed goal, we may find that we are, in fact, limiting the freedom of speech, expression and religion, as well as what I believe to be our ‘God’ given freedom to choose.
“Tolerance, in my opinion, does not mean acceptance or approval,” he continued. “To be tolerant does not mean to be unable to disagree or express contrary opinions. Tolerance does mean that each of us must and should respect each other’s choices inasmuch as they are not unlawful or do not cause harm.
“If someone says, ‘The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin,’ or ‘I believe that the way to God is through Islam’ . . . is he guilty of intolerance? Is he biased or prejudiced? I think not,” said Paquet.
The board accepted a written copy of his statements without comment.

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