Parents and teachers at Country Isles and Riverside elementary
schools got more bad news in their ongoing battle against mold and
At Riverside Elementary in Coral Springs, parents and staff
around the school buzzed angrily over recent tests that found mold
within the school's walls, including the cafeteria, hallways and
several classrooms. More than $2.5 million has been spent on the
cleanup there. A meeting is set for Saturday.
And about two dozen parents and teachers at Country Isles in
Weston learned Thursday that the school's media center -- off-limits
since August -- still can't open because two rooms recently failed
''I understand we've lost credibility,'' said Broward Schools
Superintendent Frank Till during Thursday's tense PTA meeting at
''You've lost integrity with your audience,'' parent Rich Murphy
shot back. ``The only way you can gain that back is through action.
And the action, so far, has been sporadic at best.''
Last month, Till and his staff told parents they were hustling to
open the media center as soon as possible. Maintenance and
construction crews made progress: the walls are now freshly painted,
books line the shelves, and shiny computers hum on the tables.
But the media center failed air-quality inspection tests because
the room was not cleaned properly, school construction chief Tom
Calhoun said. He said the center should be ready for students
Still, more work remains to be done throughout the school.
Calhoun told parents to expect cleaning of the air conditioning
system to continue through March. Maintenance crews also will search
for and destroy any mold in the school's classroom walls over spring
and summer vacation, Calhoun said.
That process -- rooting out ''encapsulated'' mold in the walls --
already is starting at Riverside Elementary. A certified hygienist
who took approximately 450 samples from inside the walls in five of
the school's buildings found numerous areas with elevated
concentrations of mold spores.
District officials blamed the mold on water intrusion that
occurred prior to the recent repairs. They said that since the mold
was found within the walls, it did not adversely affect the health
and safety of the areas being occupied by students or staff.
Outraged parents were unconvinced.
''They keep trying to paint over the problems,'' Riverside parent
Michael Oliver said. ``We don't trust any of them anymore.''
Broward construction officials have been warned repeatedly that
the district's clean-up projects weren't fully eradicating the
Building inspector M.L. Rouco repeatedly flunked the work at
Country Isles and Riverside last summer and fall, saying mold and
mildew hadn't fully been cleaned before new drywall and insulation
Her actions angered school officials, who said she was acting
outside her authority by critiquing the quality of work -- not
whether it met code.
Last month, Rouco was moved into a desk job. She filed an
injunction against the school district, and a Broward Circuit judge
is expected to rule that she can return to inspections if she passes
Both Country Isles, 2300 Country Isles Rd., and Riverside
Elementary almost missed the opening date in August because of
cleanup delays. School district officials hustled and the two
schools opened on time, but large areas were off-limits.
The two schools have been plagued with mold and mildew since they
opened. Country Isles and Riverside are among five schools designed
in the late 1980s by the defunct firm Miller, Meier, Kenyon and
Cooper of Fort Lauderdale. The Broward State Attorney's Office
recently sent its investigation of the district's construction
department and its mold and mildew cleanup to a grand jury.
Country Isles parents said they want school district officials to
continue testing at their school. Many say they are not confident
the school will pass -- despite its new roof and the extensive work
carried out over the past few months.
Several commented that classrooms have the basement smell often
associated with mold and mildew.
''Parents and teachers are frustrated with the whole thing,''
parent Beth Murphy said. ``They don't know what to do.''
Till said he was optimistic the problems soon would be
''Next time I come to this school, I'm reading to the kids,''
Till said. ``It'll be positive.''
Herald staff writer Steve Harrison contributed to this