MS 577 Students Return to Classrooms Where Mold Was Found

By Meredith Hoffman | April 2, 2012 2:16pm 

WILLIAMSBURG — After hundreds of middle schoolers were evacuated last week, students returned Monday to the M.S. 577 classrooms where hazardous mold was found Friday, according to the Department of Education.

DOE officials said that the school spent the weekend cleaning up the "black mold" — the strain Stachubotrus chartarum — found in seven classrooms and that the space was now safe.  Parents, however, remained concerned.

"After this weekend’s extremely thorough air purification and room cleaning we believe all the affected rooms are safe," said Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the DOE.  

The rooms tested negative Sunday for mold, he said.

But many parents said they distrusted the DOE's claim, especially since the agency had said there was no mold Friday morning before changing its story later in the day.

Parents and local officials planned to rally Monday night to demand that students be relocated to allow for additional tests at the North 5th Street school to ensure the problem is gone.

"They said it was clear to go in on Friday morning," said Marie Crane, a mother of twins at MS 577, "and then by the afternoon they had found mold in seven classrooms."

Crane took her twin 14-year-old sons out of the school last week when the mold problem came to light, and she kept them home again Monday.

"They're not playing with my kids' lives," said Crane, who said she knows at least 12 other kids who were kept out of school Monday.

Last month several students and teachers developed mold-related health problems including sinus infections and trouble breathing, according to parents and local officials.

"These classrooms are not safe for our students and we need an alternative site to be provided by the DOE immediately to ensure the health and safety of our students, teachers and administration," said 50th District Leader Lincoln Restler last week.

But the DOE said that no alternative space was needed, since the classrooms were free of mold.

The principal of MS 577 will hold a meeting with parents at the school this evening at 6 p.m. to discuss the situation.

The rally for the school's relocation, held by Council Member Diana Reyna and 50th District Leader Lincoln Restler, will occur outside the school at 208 North Fifth St. at 5:15 p.m. before the meeting.