Once mold was discovered earlier this month at Parkview Middle School, officials with Greater Clark Schools reacted swiftly to mitigate the problem. That’s commendable.
Their actions have yielded good results. While initial air quality sampling by AsbesTech Inc. showed evidence of mold, five air samples taken inside the school Aug. 13 showed no mold spores, according to results received Thursday. But one air sample taken Aug. 13 outside the school did test positive for mold, and results from air testing done earlier this week by the Indiana State Department of Health aren't in yet.
Also yet to be realized is the extent of the damage done to the parent-school relationship. Trust between the education partners was eroded when school officials chose not to inform families about the mold before the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Students returned to classes two days after the mold was found and the cleanup had started. Parkview teachers began their school year the very day the mold was discovered, Aug. 6, when some of them walked into classrooms whose air was filled with the stench of mold, its spores dotting desks and chairs and cabinets.
The educators may not have had the option to stay home. It's their livelihood. But parents of kids with allergies, some of them severe, could have opted to keep their children away from the allergen, had they only known about it.
One Parkview parent told the News and Tribune her son's symptoms became so severe — “He has been coming home not feeling well, not being able to breathe, and he feels his throat swelling up. ...” — she upped his medication to battle the symptoms, without knowing the cause.
Parents entrust the schools not only with educating their children, but also with caring for them during the school day. Greater Clark's lack of transparency kept important information from parents, who ought to be made aware of anything that potentially could affect the health of their children.
Clark County health officer Dr. Eric Yazel told the newspaper this week that exposure to the mold could result in “a runny nose, water eyes. For someone with severe allergies, it may be much more profound.”
By not alerting parents to the issue, Greater Clark gambled that no one with severe allergies would be exposed, and parents wouldn’t find out, at least not until the problem was resolved.
Greater Clark Superintendent Andrew Melin has said that because the issue was found and identified before school started, there was no need to contact parents. We disagree.
Before the first school bell rang in the new year, Parkview parents should have been told about the mold. And not just parents of children destined for the affected classrooms. Spores become airborne, and spread.
School officials have parent contact information, including emails and cell phone numbers, readily available, so they wouldn’t even need to wait until Day 1 to send a note home with students, though that would have been an appropriate follow-up.
Such an advisory note didn’t go home with students until Wednesday — the day the News and Tribune printed a front page story about the mold.
Greater Clark should have told parents sooner — two weeks ago. It would have been the right thing to do.
— Members of the News and Tribune editorial board are Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Susan Duncan, Assistant Editor Chris Morris, Assistant Editor Jason Thomas and Digital Editor Elizabeth DePompei.