Staff members of Center Elementary School took their complaints about air quality in their school directly to the school board Monday night.
An aide at the school, Aaron Derr, addressed the board to highlight a list of illnesses claimed by teachers and other staff members at the school.
But it was like preaching to the choir. The board was fully aware of the air quality concerns.
In fact, the district had emailed the school a week earlier seeking information about reports of air quality concerns.
“We had asked ESD (Educational Service District) who we should go to for an air quality inspection, and they referred us to an agency at Washington State University,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson stated. “We needed specific information on what was bothering the staff at Center Elementary so the tests could be designed.”
Carlson said that the air quality tests should be coming soon.
“We learned from McKinstry’s report of some of the problems,” Carlson noted. “McKinstry has been accumulating information about lighting, air quality and other concerns the district has in all of its buildings,” Carlson said.
McKinstry, a firm that specializes in energy concerns, is currently working with the district on a comprehensive grant application for the district’s three buildings.
One complaint stated that one room smelled like there was a “dead animal somewhere in the building.”
A number of complaints stated that several in the school were having sinus infections and allergies.
“I come to school breathing fine,” one said, “and within a couple of hours I have a headache, my eyes are burning and my nose is running.”
Another noted, “My room has a spoiled smell to it so I brought a commercial/industrial odor absorber for my classroom to take the smell away.”
Another wrote: “I have constant sinus infections related to the aount of dust that is in this building. All the surfaces of the classroom are covered in it. When I dust I use baby wipes so it doesn’t get redistributed into the air but I still leave the room with a migraine sinus headache.”
Respondants to the survey provided a list of the type of illnesses being experienced: Swollen faces, swollen around our noses and temples; coughing bouts, dry throats and sputum from allergy reactions; migraine headaches; dizziness; runny noses 10 minutes after entering the building and laryngitis and bronchial infections.
One staff member summed it up, “I would be very interested in knowing what the air quality of our building is. I have noticed that since I have worked at Center, I am getting sick more often … colds, sinus, chest.”
Superintendent Dennis Carlson responded to Derr’s presentation stating, “This is a little out of order, coming directly to the board and not going through channels.”
But Carlson told the board that the district is pursuing the complaints. “One thing we found is that some of the outside vents have been closed and so we have been circulating inside air,” Carlson said.