Parent claims mold uncovered by school construction making her kids sick

Oklahoma City district officials says Taft Middle School is safe despite complaints about dust, delays and distractions
by Tim Willert Modified: May 18, 2014 at 11:56 am •  Published: May 17, 2014

Stephanie Hull is worried that Taft Middle School is making her kids sick.

Two of Hull’s six children attend the 84-year-old school, which has been undergoing renovation for nearly two years. She contends the activity is the source of their skin ailments.

“He started breaking out in huge welts and rashes,” she said of her 14-year-old son. “He complained about not being able to breathe.”

Within 45 minutes of leaving the school, at 2901 NW 23, “the rash goes away,” she said.

Although her son has battled asthma and allergies most of his life, Hull blames his rashes and swollen lungs on mold she said was uncovered during construction.

“It started when the bathrooms were gutted,” she said.

Oklahoma City School District officials said Taft is safe, despite complaints from teachers and staffers about ongoing dust, distractions and delays caused by the MAPS for Kids renovation project.

Oklahoma City Public Schools spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said Friday the district has not received reports of any other students getting sick. An air quality inspection of Taft was completed for the district May 8 by Air & Earth Inc., of Oklahoma City.

“The air quality report shows negative for mold and the dust count is below the safe limits set by OSHA,” Tinnin said. “We’re doing our due diligence by completing the air quality samples, meeting with staff members and communicating with the parent that has the concern.”

MAPS construction manager Wayne Courville said the contractor is required to control dust “as best they can,” but “sometimes the contractor doesn’t clean up.”

“This is Oklahoma. We’re all exposed to dust on a fairly regular basis. You’re always going to have dust,” Courville said. “Our responsibility is to mitigate any dust filtration into the occupied space as much as possible and I think we do a pretty good job of that.”

Taft science teacher Eric Wheeler and building Superintendent Mike Harrison disagree.

Harrison said there’s “not so much as a box fan” to properly ventilate hallways and classrooms.

“There’s absolutely no ventilation,” he said.

Ventilation is questioned

Wheeler argues that poor ventilation is exposing students, teachers and other school workers to dust and fumes. Construction workers, he said, are drilling into concrete walls, sawing wood and sanding floors near classrooms full of students.

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for FOXSports.com in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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