Mt. Airy parents worry school may make kids ill


The problem may have been hauled out in a roll of carpet, but school and health officials continue surveys to determine whether something in the Mount Airy Elementary School is making children sick.

At a meeting last night of the school's parent-teacher association, school and health officials said they believe removal of carpet probably has eliminated the offender.

However, parents remained skeptical and supported continued surveys and testing. Officials already had planned these measures.

Pam Sorando, a Mount Airy mother who has helped survey fellow parents, urged officials to examine the whole school, not just the section where complaints surfaced.

Skip Jones of Mount Airy said his fourth-grade son suffered frequent headaches last year.

Answering parent questions were Shirin de Silva, a physician with the Maryland Department of the Environment; Charles Zeleski of the Carroll County Health Department; and Vernon Smith, director of support services for Carroll County schools.

Mr. Smith said carpet in the rest of the building is not as susceptible to moisture, where bacteria thrive.

However, he said he would have carpet samples from another section of the building tested in January.

During the summer, workers ripped out carpet in the first- and second-grade classrooms after testing showed a high bacteria count in them and in the air in some rooms. They replaced the carpet with tile, which will not harbor bacteria.

Last spring, some parents began to wonder whether their children's upper respiratory irritations might be caused by the school building.

The first survey done by the schools last spring had a poor response rate and was flawed, Dr. de Silva said. The second one was done in the spring and indicated no unusual symptoms or incidence, but there was no control group.

This month, parent volunteers surveyed children at Mount Airy and at Freedom Elementary School, the latter serving as a control group.

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