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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2003

Pupils seek remedy for `sick school'

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's summer break, but some Maumee pupils will be back in school today to share their views on renovation plans for their building.

Seventh-graders at Gateway Middle School conducted a research project to determine whether their school suffers from “sick-school syndrome.” A community forum is scheduled at 7 p.m. today in the auditorium to discuss the district's upcoming $42 million construction and renovation project at five schools, which voters approved in May. The pupils plan to talk about their findings and their experiences.

“We're the ones who use the building, not the adults,” said pupil Nathaniel Mosher. “We have models we can show them. We have research materials we can give them. We're the ones traveling the hallways every day.”

After collecting air samples and watching mold grow, some students said they think the building should be torn down. However, several said they believe steps will be taken during the renovation to address their concerns.

“We all think that this is a sick building, a sick school,” said seventh-grader Elizabeth Tippett. “We recommend a new school, but the voters passed a levy, and they are going to fix up this building, and that will help.”

According to Amy Boros, a former Gateway teacher, the pupils' recommendations varied, but their findings prompted modifications to school maintenance, including more frequent filter changes in air-handling units and classrooms, and roof repairs.

Ms. Boros is now the program manager for Project Excite - Environmental health science eXplorations through Cross-disciplinary and Investigative Team Experiences - a seven-year project funded by a $1.72 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Project Excite is coordinated through Bowling Green State University.

During Excite's second-annual environmental science colloquium at COSI in Toledo last month, Gateway pupils presented results of their two-year study of their school's environmental health.

“We introduced the unit to the kids as a response to the vast numbers of students out sick during a particular two-week period,” said Marcia Wolford, a seventh-grade teacher at the school. “We approached the problem from the standpoint that Gateway is a common denominator for the sick kids. The students collected data and used it as the basis for determining whether or not Gateway was a source for the illnesses.”

This year, she said, pupils used data to support a recommendation to renovate the building or demolish it and build a new school.

Representatives from the Medical College of Ohio and BGSU went to Gateway to help the pupils identify the mold cultures, talk to students about airborne pathogens, and conduct a ventilation workshop.

Pupils said it appears the school's environmental health has room for improvement.

“We're recommending that they improve the ventilation,” Nathaniel said. “This wasn't designed as a middle school. It was a high school, and when they remodeled it and switched things around, they cut off some ventilation.”

His classmate Sara Carnicom said the building is crowded with pupils, staff, and lockers, and renovation work should address space concerns.

Seventh-grader Trisha Krewson pointed out they will be involved with the upgrades to Gateway Middle School even after they have graduated from high school: “We'll be paying taxes for it,” she said.



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