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May 14, 2013

State to reinspect Guilmette School for mold

LAWRENCE — State health inspectors will return to the Guilmette School next week after teachers expressed fears that the mold infestation uncovered two years ago survived a $3.5 million cleanup, the president of the teachers union said yesterday.

“There are teachers who said they do have concerns, that they have trouble breathing in their classrooms,” union president Frank McLaughlin said after he and about 40 of Guilmette’s teachers and staff met with school Superintendent Jeff Riley to discuss the issue. “They say they crack their windows every day.”

Anne Roach, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health, responded to a phone call seeing details about the upcoming inspection with an e-mail saying only that she had no update. McLaughlin said she told him the inspection will occur May 21.

The renewed fear that mold has returned to Guilmette came as a first-grade classroom remains shut after a hygienist found high levels of the spores inside. Riley hired the hygienist after a teacher complained of “health problems (that) appear to worsen while at work,” he said in a letter he sent to the parents of Guilmette’s 1,150 elementary and middle school students on Friday.

The hygienist, Environmental Sampling and Testing Services of Ashburnham, Mass., on Thursday reported finding “significant concentrations (of mold) higher than industry standards and environmental agency thresholds.” The company counted 23,800 spores Aspergillus/Penicillium per cubic meter, well into the range where a cleanup is recommended.

At the same time, the hygienist provided reassurance that the discovery of more mold was an isolated incident likely due to a science project gone awry and was not connected to the widespread infestation two years ago.

A cleanup costing up to $10,000, which included wiping down all the surfaces in the classroom and sanitizing the ventilation system that serves it, was completed over the weekend. Riley said he is hopeful a new round of air-quality tests will be done in time to allow the 21 students who were displaced to five other classrooms to return this week.

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