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Howard County Public School System Sets the Record Straight

Posted: October 26th, 2015

The Howard County Public School System recently has been the subject of targeted and incorrect news reports regarding issues of environmental concerns in some schools. The school system today released the following statement:

Addressing Indoor Environmental Quality Concerns

The recent discovery of mold in HCPSS schools has raised reasonable concerns among parents, teachers and others. Long before those concerns were made public, HCPSS was engaged in a focused and deliberate effort to identify the underlying cause of the problem and correct it at its source. Experts familiar with mold have told us that mold itself is not the root problem, but the result of the presence of moisture. Remediation of moisture problems coupled with thorough cleaning is the recommended approach of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the one the system has followed.

HCPSS has stated in meetings with the community, in media interviews and on our website the many steps we have taken to address the situation. Our actions are working, though sensational media reports suggest otherwise. Those reports fail to reflect the full measure of the steps we have taken, but the facts are clear; HCPSS:

Recently, State Delegate Warren Miller said, “Instead of replacing ceiling tiles, we need to figure out the problem behind the mold and fix it.” The school system couldn’t agree more and that is precisely what we are–and have been–doing.

As any further measures become necessary, HCPSS will do whatever it takes to fix the underlying problem. HCPSS hopes Mr. Miller recognizes these actions are consistent with his position. Ideally, these actions would have been given greater coverage in the media, rather than ignored in favor of sensational reporting.

Above all else, however, we emphatically reject and demonstrably prove that any allegations of a “lack of concern” on the part of the school system are unfair, unsubstantiated and entirely inconsistent with the truth.

Ensuring a Transparent Process

More recently, community concerns have transitioned from unhealthy environment in our schools to one of transparency. The fact that the school system’s honesty and openness has been questioned by parents and elected officials is deeply concerning. This perception must be addressed immediately.

The increased scrutiny on the indoor environmental quality of our schools began at Glenwood Middle School a few years ago. Once it was determined that the HVAC system was failing, HCPSS prioritized a multimillion dollar HVAC replacement project, followed by extensive testing. Since that work was completed, independent testing has shown that the indoor air quality at Glenwood is well within safe standards.

This type of issue has always been considered part of our Comprehensive Maintenance Program; aspects of which are not typically communicated to the school community. More recently, the system has been quick to respond and communicate issues around indoor air quality in our schools, and will continue to notify school communities on issues of concern.

Continued pictures of wet ceiling tiles posted on social media and incomplete news reports are only exacerbating the perception that nothing is being done. This couldn’t be further from the truth. School custodial staff is trained to identify and remediate small instances of mold. If a problem is found outside of an area that is typically susceptible to moisture, the problem is reported and the remediation process begins. This involves an investigation into the root problem and correction by our maintenance department.

Office buildings, malls, restaurants, stores, and homes all are susceptible to moisture penetration and have a probability of containing mold. The reality is that at any given time, mold may be found in any of the school system buildings. When this happens, HCPSS will take every step necessary to remediate and correct the issue.

The school system is acting in the best interests of our students and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by media reports that are incomplete, misleading and false. HCPSS sincerely hopes our community will do likewise and reject coverage that denigrates our community and the professionals of the Howard County Public School System.