MANCHESTER — Air quality testing of select rooms began Thursday at Manchester Elementary School, though several parents continued to express concern that the entire school isn’t being tested for mold.

In an email to parents Thursday afternoon provided to the Kennebec Journal, Principal Janet Delmar said she was providing an update and a copy of the agreement with Air Quality Management Services, Inc. in the “spirit of transparency.”

Delmar said she will send the test results and report to parents when the school receives it, and it will be available in the school’s office. She said the heating and ventilation units, as well as other air handling systems, also will be checked to ensure they are operating properly.

“This has been a top priority for a very long time and will continue to be,” Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said. “We’re working and acting as quickly as we possibly can.”

During Wednesday night’s Regional School Unit 38 board meeting, more than 20 parents spoke out against the way the district and school administration handled the mold problem from the time it was first discovered in October to when the basement and three classrooms were remediated and cleaned in late December.

“They should’ve let us know about the mold earlier than they did,” said Stephanie Garofalo, a parent of a 6-year-old who has experienced wheezing, coughing fits and headaches since September. Other parents said the way the district communicated — two emails, on Nov. 28 and Jan. 4 — was “unacceptable,” “poor” and “inexcusable.”


While one parent said testing select rooms is a starting point, Jeremy Payne, who has three children at the school, said it’s another misstep and not nearly enough to satisfy the dissatisfied parents.

“Rather than acquiescing to the requests of concerned families, the school has chosen to go it alone,” Payne said via email. “If we find out in a matter of weeks or months that some rooms that weren’t part of this initial testing do indeed have mold, and we’ve exposed our children to an unsafe environment during that time, should we be satisfied?”

The district held a meeting at Manchester Elementary School last week to shed some light on the process that took place last year and to answer public questions. Multiple requests were made during that meeting that the entire school be tested, so Payne is unsure why that isn’t happening.

“They easily could’ve indicated last night they’ve heard the community’s concerns loud and clear and would expand the testing to cover the whole school,” Payne said.

The testing plan was signed by Curt Morse, the district’s director of operations and transportation on Tuesday, the day before the school board meeting. The plan called for the testing of the air quality in three additional classrooms, two hallways and the gymnasium and stage at a cost of $1,630. The test also included carpet vacuum samples of the three classrooms to determine the level of mold in carpet dust.

The agreement states the final report will be provided to the school within 10 to 15 business days following testing, with interim results provided when available. Wolfrom said the important thing is to communicate with parents as soon as the district knows anything about Thursday’s testing.


“Curt has asked the (air quality testing) company to let us know if there is any immediate danger, like we requested during the last tests,” Wolfrom said.

Payne said selectively choosing which rooms to test doesn’t make any sense. He said there are several grades that have multiple classrooms, and it’s wrong to assume just because one room is clean, the other room would also be clean.

“This assumption would defy logic,” Payne said.

Wolfrom declined to say whether the district plans to continue testing the remainder of the school. Rather, she said it will await the results of this test and follow the advice of the experts.

“The plan would be to first meet with the facilities committee, and at this point, we’ll have to consult with them every step of the way,” the superintendent said. “It takes time to get those people together, but we’ll do it as timely as possible, as we have always done.”

Mold is a naturally occurring, necessary part of the environment that can be found everywhere, the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council states on its website. Symptoms of mold exposure are allergylike, including coughing, wheezing and nasal stuffiness, according to an allergist and immunologist at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. During Wednesday’s public meeting, parents spoke of symptoms their children have exhibited over the last year, including nagging coughs, headaches and other unexplained illnesses, and several teachers talked about problems they have had in their classrooms.


There are no federal health standards for mold, but the state uses indoor air quality standards from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a guide for air quality, David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said via email.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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