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Report: Air quality poor in now-shuttered Lake Zurich school
By Phil Collins | Daily Herald Correspondent

May Whitney was closed in 2007 when flooding revealed mold. Students were moved to the annex, which is connected to the May Whitney building by maintenance doors.

 

Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/19/2010 1:51 PM | Updated: 3/19/2010 8:14 PM

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District 95 parents were upset Thursday over a air quality report done last August at May Whitney School that was never released by the school district - a report that even the superintendent said he didn't see until recently.

At a community forum Thursday, Lake Zurich Unit District 95 officials took questions from community members on a wide variety of topics, but the indoor air quality at May Whitney continued to resurface.

May Whitney was essentially abandoned in 2007 when serious mold was discovered after a flood. Students were moved into the Annex, a separate building connected to May Whitney though an enclosed passageway, that did not flood. The former school is used by District 95 for storage.

The 2009 report surfaced recently when a parent obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report detailed the poor indoor air quality in the building, areas affected by mold and recommendations for building safety.

Superintendent Mike Egan said he did not know about the report until last week.

"The breakdown of communication within the district is inexcusable," Egan said. "We have posted every important document in regards to indoor air quality at May Whitney except this one. This will not happen again."

On Thursday, parents raised concerns that there could be cross-contamination between the old May Whitney and the Annex, through the maintenance doors or by items being moved in and out of storage.

Jodi Carroll, who said she is the parent of a 7-year-old with a chronic cough, said she was angry the report just recently came to light. "It sickened me to read that report and learn that his respiratory health could be further compromised," Carroll said.

It was unclear Friday why the report never came to light. Egan, however, said that since reviewing it officials have implemented the recommendations given in it, including sealing off those maintenance doors connecting the occupied and unoccupied May Whitney buildings, using negative air pressurization in the abandoned building and taking out landscaping in front of ventilation.

A community forum was held in August specifically on the subject of May Whitney's indoor air quality. This report was issued about 10 days later but officials said they did not know of it or its findings until last week.

The Aug. 31 report was done by environmental and occupational health consultants Carnow Conibear & Associates. It was addressed to the District 95's facilities director, but he is no longer with the school district and was not available Friday.

The forum was a general, town hall-style meeting meant for residents to bring questions on any subject. A wide variety of questions were addressed on subjects including school safety, drug prevention education, special education and technology. In addition to questions from audience members, questions were e-mailed in from people watching the forum via a live webcast.