Mount Airy Elementary to remain open, despite health fears SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield


Mount Airy Elementary will remain open despite some parents' pleas that the building be closed because of health worries, Carroll school officials said yesterday.

"At this point, we've not been able to identify -- at least through our testing -- any element that could be contributing to the problem," said William H. Hyde, assistant superintendent of administration. "Our decision is to keep the school open now and for the remainder of the year."

Mr. Hyde said the decision was made after consulting state Department of the Environment and county Health Department officials, who have been working with school officials to determine the cause of the health problems.

Students have reported headaches, throat irritation, coughing, nasal congestion and other maladies, according to a survey conducted by the school system this month.

Air-quality and other tests conducted at the school have come back negative.

During a three-hour meeting with school officials Wednesday, a few parents suggested closing the school. The meeting was held to update parents on the testing and its results.

Tests for air contaminants, methane, hydrogen sulfide, radon and dust mites have been negative, school officials said. More tests are expected to be conducted by the Maryland Department of the Environment next week.

Parents were told of the decision to keep the school open in a memo sent home with students yesterday.

Christine Bingaman, the mother of two first-grade daughters, expressed shock that school officials had reached a decision so soon.

"It's awfully abrupt, considering the severity of the situation," she said. "I'm not pleased with their decision. The fact that they don't know what is causing this and can't give us any assurance that kids will not experience long-term health problems really bothers me."

Mrs. Bingaman said she has withdrawn one of her daughters from the school. The other daughter, whose class meets in a portable building, remains in school but is not allowed in the main building.

Mr. Hyde said officials received many calls yesterday from parents opposed to closing the school.

Vernon F. Smith Jr., Carroll's director of school support services, said school officials are awaiting the results of mold and bacteria tests.

Town officials are expected to take water samples for testing this week. Monitoring of some classrooms will continue, and school officials will make further repairs and checks of heating and ventilation units, Mr. Smith said.

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