LAWRENCE — Life has been turned upside down for Rosanna Sariol since Oct. 18.
That was when Guilmette School closed because of a serious mold problem leaving Sariol and thousands of other parents scrambling to find a baby sitter, miss work or cut down their hours to take care of their children.
"It's been very difficult for me," said Sariol, who has reduced her hours as a home health aide to stay home with daughters Rashel, 12, and Emely, 10.
"It's a sacrifice, but I have to do it, because I can't leave them alone," Sariol said.
Guilmette School at 80 Bodwell St., closed to its 1,150 students on Oct. 18 when workers failed to eradicate mold believed to be confined to a boiler room and surrounding hallways. The initial infestation was found to include two types of mold, including a black mold with strains that can cause chronic fatigue, headaches, fever, rashes and chronic coughing.
The school, built in 2002, will remain closed through Christmas after mold was discovered in the spaces between the ceiling of the school's first level and the floor on the second floor.
Acting School Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron said insulation around piping between the floors has been removed as will all ceiling tiles.
Parents complained they were left on their own to find a solution to a problem they said did not create.
Last week, 15 families from the Guilmette School visited Markus Fischer executive director of Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence to see if they could leave their children there.
"Regretfully, we couldn't do anything because our staff comes in at 1 p.m.," Fischer said.
"We couldn't give them other alternatives because after-school programs are just that, after-school. For us, there's a real drain on resources already to get staff in early."
Fischer said theclub will be abl to rent out space to the school district for temporary classrooms.
Meanwhile parents are juggling work and housework
Across the hall from Sorial's apartment Prudencio Reyes has put his life on hold to take care of his son, Yuriel, 8, a second grader at Guilmette.
"I'm angry bad because I don't want my son to miss school," Reyes said.
Children have mixed feeling about being out of school.
"I'm happy there's no school," said Yuriel, a fourth grader. "Part of me wants to go to school to learn and the other part of me wants to stay home and sleep late."
Although his mother makes has him read a book, Yuriel said he sneaks in time to watch television or play video games.
Angel Luis Mendez, 7, wants to go back to school.
"I like school, because I play outside, and I do homework and learn things," said Angel, a second grader.
His cousin, Kimberly Rodriguez, 12, stays at Angel's house while her mother goes to work cleaning offices.
Kimberly, a sixth grader, plays basketball or visits friends to pass the time.
"I'm glad there's no school because I don't get homework, but I miss my teachers."
Sisters Rashel and Emely have been watching Cartoon Network, news programs and past episodes of American Idol.
Rashel and Emely also play "Family Feud" with their mother.
"I want to go back to school so I can see my friends," said Rashel, who is in the seventh grade. "If I don't go to school, I don't see them."
But is not all fun and games for the Sariol sisters. Their mother makes them read, write and solve math problems.
"It's important for me that they don't fall behind ..."
Sandy Almonte, who works for the Department of Transitional Assistance has been barraged with questions about the school's closing.
"I'm bothered by the lack of information from school officials. I've never seen such lack of consideration for parents and students."
Almonte said the majority of the families whose children attend Guilmette School cannot afford to take time off from work or don't have flexible hours and school officials should have had plans so parents can plan accordingly.
"I know how difficult it is to find a baby sitter, not knowing when or where you're child is going to go, not to mention the emotional effect of not being in their schools, away from their comfort zone," said Almonte, whose cousins and nephews attend Guilmette School.