Crews to check Kennedy Junior High for mold
By Kari Hartman Daily Herald Staff Writer

While school officials consider how to tackle elevated levels of carbon dioxide at Kennedy Junior High, consultants also will check the Lisle school for mold over winter break.

The probe was sparked by complaints of headaches and sinus problems from several teachers at Kennedy. Some wonder if their health woes can be traced to the school's air quality.

Air quality officials in Naperville Unit District 203 haven't found any mold in the school but have detected elevated levels of carbon dioxide in some areas, said Tom Malamos, district indoor air quality manager.

The levels are not high enough to cause serious health hazards, said Les Bant, an engineer with the DuPage County Health Department's environmental health services division.

But officials say the carbon dioxide could create a stuffy, stale atmosphere that contributes to headaches.

Elevated levels of carbon dioxide are not uncommon in schools or commercial buildings, Bant said.

Health guidelines recommend carbon dioxide levels not exceed 1,000 parts per million inside buildings, Malamos said. Some levels at Kennedy are between 1,200 and 3,000 parts per million.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration says carbon dioxide levels do not present a health hazard until they reach 40,000 parts per million, Bant said.

Some other District 203 schools also have experienced carbon dioxide levels above 1,000 parts per million, Malamos said.

The levels vary based on several factors, Bant said. Because we exhale carbon dioxide, levels increase with the number of people in a room. Levels also rise if students participate in physical activities.

Kennedy Principal Don Perry said he's heard from three or four teachers complaining of headaches or sinus congestion. They don't all work in the same area of the building.

"There is no proof that (the air quality) is causing it," he said.

But Perry and other district officials say they want to make sure the air is safe.

Concerns about air quality have been raised in the past about other District 203 schools.

"Kennedy has been the focal point lately, but it's not building specific," teachers union President David Griffith said.

"We're interested in the health of everybody," he said. "If people are getting sick, we have to identify that and deal with it, but they might be getting sick for other reasons, too. Who knows?"

Kennedy will be checked room by room for mold during winter break, which runs Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, Malamos said. School officials don't expect mold to be found.

Administrators also are considering ways to improve ventilation at each school. Over the past few years, the district and health department have surveyed staffs about air quality in their buildings.

Malamos hopes to make improvements to Kennedy's ventilation system by summer.

"We want to make the best learning environment possible," Malamos said. "This is not just unique to our district. This is seen in every school district."

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