Dirty Portable Duel

School Board to Examine Health Concerns at Washington Elementary

Since 2004 — fueled by complaints of headaches and one reported incident where mold spore counts in the library registered nearly three times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety threshold — concerned parents of Washington Elementary School students have been trying to get a more thorough investigation of the air quality in the school’s various portable classrooms. After this week’s school board meeting, they might just get their wish. Or will they?

The board was poised to approve the funding — some $13,000 — Tuesday night to bring in a certified industrial hygienist, recommended to them by the Self Insured Schools of California (SISC) group, and potentially get results back sometime next month. However, disillusioned by a long-winded process in which the district repeatedly dragged its feet in responding to concerns about air quality — and, when it did respond, brought in “unqualified” investigators — the parent group, officially known as Parents for Excellence in Public Schools (PEPS), balked at the individual potentially tapped to do the newest round of testing. “We have a history going back six years of six different tests and multiple complaints,” explained PEPS member Dr. David Shapiro. “During that time, we feel the district and SISC have lost credibility … It is time for a truly outside and truly independent investigation.” Not wanting to see the matter delayed any more than the district does, the group proposed their own investigator, but he too was scoffed at, only this time by administrators for not being a certified industrial hygienist.

In the end, the board, sympathetic to the public’s desire to have a mutually agreeable person carry out the air quality inquiry, unanimously approved a plan that calls for both sides to propose additional candidates in the following week with hopes of finding common ground before the November 9 board meeting. If such a person cannot be found, then the district’s originally pegged person will once again become the man for the job. “We need a resolution here,” summed up Boardmember Susan Deacon. “It shouldn’t be a battle of the experts. We have to do what is right and look into this.”

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