Upset parents claim Md. school building unsafe, causing students, staff to get sick

There were fireworks at a public meeting Monday about air quality and mold concerns at a Prince George's County elementary school. Some parents and staff members at District Heights Elementary say their building isn't safe, citing rampant respiratory sickness.

At the meeting, school district officials tried to reassure the angry parents.

Mark Fossett, the associate superintendent for Supporting Services for Prince George's County Public Schools, said ten areas of the building have been tested. He said no mold was found, but there are areas of "inadequate ventilation" from fans on the roof not working properly. Fossett also said that an elevated level of spores was discovered in a classroom that kids have since been moved out of.

He said more testing will be happening this week, and despite the issues identified already, the district feels the building is safe. Many at the meeting were not convinced.

"The parents are asking, the staffers are asking to be removed from the building until they actually finish whatever testing that they have going on," said Shirley Kirkland, the union representative for District Heights Elementary School staff. "And I have to concur with that."

One mother told FOX 5 that her kids keep getting sick and she is keeping them out of school for now. A teacher's aide said she has been back and forth to the doctor constantly. Another mother, who brought her son to the meeting, said he has continued to have respiratory issues.

"Coughing and sneezing and my throat," the boy said when asked about what was wrong.

"I rushed here today because the nurse just called me while I was at work telling me that my daughter was complaining about her throat and her chest," said parent Sherice Garedo. "My daughter's teacher, she is in the fourth grade, she has completely exhausted her leave because every time you turn around, she is out with some kind of respiratory infection. So they know that something is going on. They need to shut the school down, put the parents at ease and put the kids some place where they can still continue to get an education."

FOX 5 asked Fossett if moving students and staff to a new location was an option on the table.

"It's definitely on the table," he said. "As I said this evening, we are not removing anything. If we get a test result back or there is something coming back that is abnormal, we will make the decision at that particular point which serves the best interest of the health and welfare of children. So nothing is off the table. We would never in this school system, the CEO, knowingly put any children or staff in harm's way."

Fossett said the entire building would be tested for mold and other air quality issues starting Tuesday.