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May 12, 2013

New school mold woes

Guilmette summer students will be displaced again

LAWRENCE – Summer school students and staff at the Guilmette School will be displaced again in June after the lone bid to fix its air conditioning system, which has been shut since it was found to be spreading mold two years ago, came in nearly $900,000 over what was budgeted.

Chris Markuns, a spokesman for Superintendent/Receiver Jeff Riley, said that Guilmette's summer school students will be relocated to the Bruce School while the city decides how or whether to go forward with the work at Guilmette.

As that process was beginning last week, state health officials delivered what could be more bad news for Guilmette. Anne Roach, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, said the department has received renewed complaints about Guilmette's air quality and will conduct another round of tests.

“Many staff have stated that they have suffered from chronic, recurring symptoms such as coughing, bronchitis, sinus infections, asthma symptoms, swollen glands and unexplained tiredness and burning under the eyelids,” said a complaint filed last month with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which the agency forwarded it to the state Health Department. “Approximately 50 to 60 staff members could be affected.”

OSHA did not release the names of the people who filed the complaints.

Student attendance at Guilmette nudged up this school year compared to last, while staff attendance dropped, according to data supplied by the school district. Through April, attendance at the elementary school was 95 percent, compared to 94.2 percent last year. At the middle school, attendance increased to 96 percent from 95.5 percent.

Staff attendance at the elementary school dropped to 92.3 percent this year, compared to 94 percent last year. At the middle school, staff attendance dropped 1 percent, to 93 percent.

"While there has been no significant change in student/teacher attendance rates or other signs of ongoing widespread health problems, we understand the concerns of those involved based on the building's history," Markuns said. "The matter is being taken very seriously."

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