Washington Elementary School closed its library this week days after a blotch of mold was spotted on the ceiling. The school’s portables — the library is housed in one of them — have been subject to mold and air quality concern from parents and staff since 2004, with the investigation’s future currently pending.

David Hetyonk, Santa Barbara School District’s director of facilities and operations, said the library’s mold spot was no more than six by four inches. School officials closed the library on November 16, he said. “We have to take the necessary steps to make sure students and staff are safe,” he explained.

The parent group involved with the investigation, Parents for Excellence in Public Schools, told the school that the librarian believed the portable library was a source of breathing problems, Hetyonk said. The librarian had reported that while children were taking GATE tests in the library, they were “sleepy and drowsy.”

Previous air quality tests in the portables have returned negative readings and shown no reason for concern, Hetyonk said. But the parent group, he went on, believed that the air testing procedures were insufficient because the classroom doors were left open.

Through the parent group’s suggestions, a certified industrial hygienist from environmental consulting firm Panacea will perform the air quality testing. The final proposal will be set for approval by the School Board on December 14.

After approval, the air quality testing would happen as soon as the specialist’s schedule allows. The tests would need to occur in the normal classroom environment with students present, Hetyonk said, so the testing would not take place over the school’s winter break.


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