South Florida teachers claim moldy classrooms causing illnesses

South Florida teachers in one of the nation's largest public school districts claim moldy classrooms and hallways are making them sick, with the Broward Teachers Union claiming complaints to district administrators are going largely unanswered. Over 700 Broward school employees claim to have suffered sinus issues, watery eyes, headaches, itching, rashes and asthma as a result of mold, the Miami Herald reported.

“I have schools telling me they’ve got mushrooms growing out of air vents, spores in students’ desks, spores on musical instruments, spores coming out of the cracks in the floor, on furniture, on walls, in the halls,” Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, told the Miami Herald. “If you’ve got people that are off work all summer long and they’re feeling better and they’re breathing better and they get back to school and they’re feeling sick, that’s got to be a sign of something.”

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Efforts to combat the issues have been too slow, the employees claim, with the union alleging that some orders for clean-up were placed two years ago.

Tracy Clark, Broward Schools spokeswoman, told the Miami Herald that the district takes mold complaints seriously, and is committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for students and employees. She added that the district is replacing the work order system.

“Any staff member with a concern is encouraged to immediately notify his or her school administrator and site-based maintenance teams,” she told the news outlet.

The problem is not exclusive to Broward, with teachers in Miami-Dade also complaining of health issues. A spokeswoman told the Miami Herald that the district sent licensed mold remediation contractors to two schools in the past, and that they are scheduled to be renovated as part of the district’s $1.2 billion school improvement.

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The issues were reportedly so bad at Miami Sunset Senior High School in Kendall that the principal abruptly resigned. And in Pembroke Pines, one high school teacher claims complaints about mold on ceiling tiles and air vents have gone unanswered for six years.

“Aside from our colleagues being in these schools with mold, the children are exposed to it,” Fusco told the Miami Herald. “We’re asking people to take this seriously. We’re not just looking out for our colleages. We’re looking out for our children.”

The union is planning to bring independent experts in to inspect schools within the coming weeks.