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Hinsdale Middle School teachers express health concerns about poor air quality, moisture damage

<p>Workers pull a section of lockers away from the wall at Hinsdale Middle School after a sprinkler pipe burst Jan. 4. | File photo</p>

Workers pull a section of lockers away from the wall at Hinsdale Middle School after a sprinkler pipe burst Jan. 4. | File photo

Teachers at Hinsdale Middle School are expressing concerns about the health of students and staff because of poor air quality and water/moisture damage in the building.

Heather Scott, co-president of the Hinsdale Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association and a sixth-grade language art teacher at HMS, told the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board Dec. 13 of the concerns.

Scott said concerns over environmental health issues have increased over the past few years because of continued building problems with water leaks and resulting increased moisture, which can result in mold.

There was water damage in the library and five classrooms at HMS after a sprinkler pipe burst Jan. 4.

“We understand the inconvenience of having to work around the repairs,” Scott said. “What we do not understand and cannot accept are the health issues students and staff are experiencing due to being in the building.

“We have medically fragile students who are affected and staff. Our working environment is our students’ learning environment, and at this time, we feel this environment is neither a safe nor an adequate learning setting.”

Scott said a survey was conducted in the fall of HMS staff, addressing growing health concerns. Responses indicated 87 percent of the staff has concerns and have reported symptoms such as headaches, itchy and dry eyes, dizziness, congestion and sore throats.

Christine Maxwell, a reading specialist, told the board in December he was suffering from a splitting sinus headache, itchy eyes, cough and occasional laryngitis and dizziness after being inside the building all day.

“I was fine all weekend,” she said.

Results of an air-quality study by Integrity Environmental Services are expected by the end of the week, said Gary Frisch, District 181’s assistant superintendent of business and operations. Mold and dust tests also are being completed, Frisch said.

Ann Mueller, a member of the district’s Facilities Committee, said that group toured the school Dec. 9.

“To say there are dramatic facilities needs at HMS is an understatement,” Mueller said. “The issue of indoor air quality is a concern. It’s time to address the numerous issues at HMS.”

Superintendent Renee Schuster called the situation “a serious problem,” and said the board ultimately will have to decide whether it’s more cost effective to renovate the building at 100 S. Garfield Ave., which also has space issues, or build a new school.

While District 181 has hired an outside firm to do a $26,000 facilities study, board member Gary Clarin said the environmental/health concerns need to be addressed immediately.

“We don’t have time for a study,” he said. “It either has to be gutted or torn down. It’s not the type of environment you want your kids today to learn in. And to have the teachers to through what they go through isn’t right, either.”

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