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Editor’s note: This is second in a series on the state of Silver Falls School District facilities. For at least two decades, Eugene Field Elementary School staff members have pondered a question: Is there something in the building causing people to become ill? Since 1968 community discussions have occurred about discontinuing the use of Eugene Field, which houses kindergarten through third grade education. Now, yet another Silver Falls School District Long Range Facilities Committee is discussing the next step in planning for the district’s facilities.
Following up on reported health concerns at the school, Our Town distributed a short questionnaire to the school’s 51 staff members and received 24 responses. Everyone interviewed – both on and off the record – emphasized they did not want to point fingers, hurl accusations or cause panic. A teacher who has taught at Eugene Field since 2007, said both teachers and students deserve a safe and healthy place to work and learn. Twenty-two out of the 24 questionnaire respondents said they believed further tests should be done, especially testing for mold and mildew, which several staff members believe to be prevalent in the basement. Another teacher, who asked not to be identified, said there have been several teachers with chronic illnesses but there is no way to link their illness to the building.
Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando said he doesn’t understand why staff members are fearful to speak to their principal about their concerns.
Douglas Jenkins, who retired from Eugene Field in 2007 and taught there 15 years, said he believes there is a strong correlation between the amount of time one works at Eugene Field and the likelihood of health challenges of one kind or another.
By describing his concerns as a correlation, he said it avoids the path of finding fault and establishing a cause. Sarah Smith taught third-grade at Eugene Field for four years, before leaving to continue her education. During her first year after leaving the school she reported she was rarely sick and felt “100 percent better.” Her asthma has improved, and she says she uses her inhaler on average three times a year now. Hannan has had continuous sinus challenges and multiple rounds of antibiotics since she started working at the school in the fall.
During the decade she was the school’s principal, Cathy Brosnan-Trepus said she had chronic respiratory problems, including sinus infections. Brosnan-Trepus, who began working at Eugene Field in 2001, said she expressed her concerns about the building with the district administration in the spring of 2002. Brosnan-Trepus said the district staff responded to her and her staff’s concerns by conducting air quality tests every time they asked, except the last time. The first air quality test in 2002 resulted in the recommendation that two windows be left open two inches, so there would be air circulation. Any time a student scrapes his knee on a playground, Maintenance Supervisor Pete Paradis knows about it.


Paradis said each building in the district – with the exception of the new high school, has an asbestos management plan. Paradis confirmed there is encapsulated asbestos in the insulation of boiler pipes in the school’s boiler room and attic. The school board has designated Paradis as the Local Education Agency Asbestos Compliance Employee. A door was recently installed between two classrooms, Paradis said, and tests before the work was done indicated no asbestos.
In April 2007, Trevor Ansbro of SAIF, which provides workers compensation insurance, conducted an indoor air quality survey to monitor for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature and relative humidity when the windows in the classroom were left open at least an inch during testing. According to the letter, the average carbon dioxide levels “detected with the windows open in all classrooms tested (excluding outdoor tests) were below the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommended comfort ranges. Ansbro wrote, “Since the school lacks mechanical ventilation, it is very important that outside air is introduced into the classrooms.
Because of leaky radiators and water seen running down walls, several teachers reported concern about mold, a few  stating they have seen it in the basement. When  asked about basement mold Paradis said it was the first he had heard of the problem and added to his knowledge no mold tests have been done.
This year, Hannan said three staff members have complained of headaches and congestion that they suspect are related to air quality.
Bellando said he has been contacted about questions of air quality and fresh air exchange in the building. One respondent said people should know “that their child is in a building that I feel is unhealthy and unsafe for them. Although Hannan believes the building is safe for students, staff and visitors, she said it is time to replace the building. The first part, on the functionality of  the Eugene Field Elementary School building, appeared in the March 15 edition of Our Town. The group will present its recommendations to the Silver Falls School District Board on June 25. Fifteen reported their health concerns seem to go away when they are away from the building during weekends and summer months.
Instead, they want to know if there is any validity to what seems to be a pattern of health concerns experienced reported by staff members.
She said many teachers don’t complain about the building because they fear professional repercussions. He said he then tries to determine if there is a way to improve the safety at that playground.
As required by law, annual notification is made to parents, staff members and the community about the management plan.


He also suspects asbestos is in the popcorn ceiling above the main office, adding a second ceiling has been added to conceal and contain the first ceiling. This is an indication that ventilation provided by opening windows keeps the average CO level at comfortable ranges. Hannan recently evacuated a classroom after a teacher reported several students becoming dizzy and having headaches at the same time.
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