Teachers’ union wants to assure clean air, recycling in schools

NORWALK, Conn. – Now that the Board of Education has tackled the tough issue of making Norwalk’s schools safer against outside threats, the Norwalk Federation of Teachers wants to turn attention to threats from within. Specifically, they want to tackle the issues of mold, air quality and healthy building environments.

NFT President Bruce Mellion introduced the union’s five-page “Environmental Safety Agenda” statement at last week’s BOE meeting during the public input session. The policy calls for a “Tools-for Schools” coordinator and team that would include teacher and parent representatives, part of a program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce exposure to indoor environmental contaminants in schools.

It calls for immediate remediation if mold is seen or smelled in the schools, but recommends against air quality testing as a first step, in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. According to the agenda statement, the CDC calls such testing unreliable and expensive, and says remediation should begin as soon as mold is detected.

“Two of the things we work on very diligently are school safety in conjunction with building-level consultation and the whole topic about air quality and mold and healthy building environments,” Mellion said. “We put this together as a resource, a starting point, a benchmark so that people hopefully would have the same information.

“We welcome input to make it better and more expansive,” he said.

Mellion said the agenda statement was distributed to all building union stewards and NFT officers, who are making it available to teachers.

Last week’s meeting was the first time BOE Chairman Mike Lyons was made aware of the agenda, but it was not the first time the union had expressed environmental concerns.

“The NFT has raised issues about internal air quality in the past and they’ve been addressed on an ad-hoc basis,” Lyons said. “I think this is more of a comprehensive plan, and could be helpful as we go through our strategic planning process with Dr. (Manny) Rivera. He has a chunk of funding in the proposed 2014-2015 budget we’ll be releasing Tuesday for a facilities utilization study, and one of the positions he’s looking to fill now is facilities director. Certainly I’d want the facilities director and the new chief business officer, when hired, to look at this as part of their own planning process.”

In addition to mold, the agenda addressed the school district’s recycling efforts.

“In too many school buildings, the contents of classroom recycling bins are dumped in with regular garbage,” the statement says. “This ‘faux recycling’ behavior is unacceptable on environmental and education grounds It harms the environment and sends the message to our students that recycling and respect for the environment are unimportant.”

Lyons said that is a problem that should be addressed by the facilitis manager.

“Recycling is more a management matter; the policies are in place now but only spottily followed, school by school,” he said. “This is another area the facilities director should look into, and it shouldn’t take more staff to implement it.”


2 responses to “Teachers’ union wants to assure clean air, recycling in schools”

  1. M Allen

    Recycling… sounds like existing management needs to write a memo, force some compliance and the custodian’s union needs to get busy. Issue solved. As for mold, perhaps it needs to be made official in some way, but it sounds like there is a position, albeit currently vacant, that would be responsible for this. No need to add another piece of bureaucracy by creating a new position.

  2. Oldtimer

    Fairfield tore down a school because of untreated mold problems that had gotten beyond any simple treatment. Any condition that allows moisture where it shouldn’t be is asking for mold problems. We have a few schools that suffered from leaking roofs for some time before the roofs were replaced. How far are we from major mold problems ?

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