T he MTA has called on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to carefully monitor health and safety conditions
in all buildings used to educate children in the
Commonwealth — and to keep the public informed
about issues that are found.
“Any building that is used to educate children
needs to be free of health and safety hazards, but
many public schools in our Commonwealth are
filled with significant risks to students and educators
— including unsafe drinking water and poor air
quality,” MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice
President Erik J. Champy wrote in a Jan. 25 letter to
Jeff Wulfson, acting commissioner of the DESE.
“Rather than waiting for a student or an educator
to become ill or injured due to the condition of a
building,” they added, “the Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education needs to actively monitor
the quality of our public schools. Where issues are
found, they must be resolved on an urgent basis.”
At the 2017 MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates,
educators overwhelmingly approved a new business
item directing the organization to demand from the
DESE a list of all buildings used to educate students
and the conditions that prevail in each one.
To meet that goal, the association called on the
DESE to assess each school and determine whether
there are health and safety concerns related, among
other areas, to:
U Quality of drinking water, including lead content
U Quality of air in classrooms and other locations
U Presence of asbestos
U Presence of PCBs and other known carcinogens
U Presence of mold
U Presence of radon
U Presence of infestation by rodents or other pests
U Presence of devices to monitor carbon monoxide
U Use of approved cleaning materials and protocols
M adeloni and Champy wrote that once the assessment is completed, the DESE should compile a list accessible to the
public that clearly specifies health and safety
Writing that educators, parents and other
residents have regularly shared their concerns
with the MTA’s Health and Safety Committee,
they pointed out a number of examples of school
buildings posing significant health risks, including
n Officials in the Worcester Public Schools are
closely monitoring the presence of PCBs in schools
built during a time when construction materials
contained that carcinogen.
n The state Department of Environmental
Protection found unsafe levels of lead in drinking
water in over half of the 1,000-plus schools tested.
n Kindergarten students in Douglas fell ill
and were taken to a nearby hospital because of
undetected carbon monoxide exposure when a
furnace failed in the municipal building that housed
“The 110,000 members of the Massachusetts
Teachers Association believe that there are no
compromises or shortcuts when it comes to
addressing environmental hazards in school
buildings,” Madeloni and Champy wrote. “No one
attending a public school or working in one should
have to worry about becoming ill or injured because
They concluded, “Preparing a comprehensive
list should be a first step toward urgent action on
the DESE’s part to ensure that every Massachusetts
student has a healthy and safe place to learn. We call
on you to take that step without delay.”
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