Some Northport parents are calling for a sickout Thursday over concerns about environmental hazards at Northport Middle School.
The most recent complaints about the school involve odors that have been traced to new HVAC units on the roof of the building. But fears about hazards pre-date the HVAC problem.,
A letter from the parents on the Facebook page Close Northport Middle School says,
“We are doing this to send a very clear message to our School Board that additional testing is needed at Northport Middle School to find out why teachers and students have been and are currently getting sick. Testing has been repeatedly voted down in the past few years. Even comparing our own school nurse’s logs between both of our middle schools has been denied by the board. Our Superintendent is recommending additional testing but it’s not that simple. The Board of Education must vote yes.”
Parents want soil, water, air and building materials tested for contaminants. The parent group says that Teachers and students have reported multiple symptoms, including migraines, nose bleeds, sinus/lung infections, itchy watery eyes, rashes, respiratory distress, raised carboxyhemoglobin levels, declining platelet levels, growing mold in lungs/sinuses and general fatigue.”
A wing of the school was closed in 2017 after strong odors were reported. The fumes were linked to an underground warehouse that stored petroleum-based materials and at least one vehicle beneath the school.
The most recent problem occurred this fall when smells were reported coming from the HVAC unit on the roof. Dr. Robert Banzer, school superintendent, said an inspection by the manufacturer, Carrier, found two problems in need of repair. No odors have been reported since Oct. 23 and the problems have been repaired, Banzer said.
He also responded to the sickout plan, saying the board would discuss and approve testing, and establish a review committee.
“The Board of Education and I understand that concerns about NMS have been unsettling for
community members and we are prepared to take additional steps. At the November 7th Board of
Education meeting, the trustees plan to discuss and approve testing as well as develop a
committee to further review this matter. The district has and will continue to make the health and
safety of students and staff a top priority. ”
The group calling for the sickout will rally at 8 a.m. at the school. The school board meets at 7 p.m. Thursday.