Bungalow Safety
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AG00276_.GIF (1199 bytes)As always, the views set forth below are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the District or anyone else.

At this point in time, I am assuming that every bungalow is unsafe, until proven otherwise.  On the other hand, I believe that if we are diligent now and vigilant as time goes on, then the air quality of the bungalows can be made equivalent to (or better than) the air quality of our permanent classrooms.  Based on my discussions with the Environmental Working Group, the EPA, the American Lung Association, the chief of indoor air quality for the State of California, the three environmental consultants who we interviewed on Wednesday July 7th, and others, my preliminary conclusions are as follows:

1.  By arranging for adequate ventilation (at least 15 cubic feet per minute, and perhaps more), we can achieve levels of formaldehyde & other VOCs that are significantly less than what exists in the average residence.

1A.   It appears that our schools now comply with all state and federal guidelines as to air quality.  However, such guidelines are so minimal that I am putting ZERO weight on this factor.

 
2.  We can minimize molds by visual inspection, careful monitoring of symptoms, and aggressive responses if anyone is experiencing symptoms that might relate to high levels of molds.

3.  The scientific evidence linking bungalows to cancer is highly debatable.   However, I am not interested in this debate.  Instead, I want to give kids the benefit of the doubt by providing enough ventilation so that the levels of formaldehyde and other VOCs are significantly less than what exists in the average residence.

4.  We need a citizens committee to help us decide what we should do in the short run, and to act as a watchdog over the long run.  I would also like to see teachers and other staff members volunteer to participate in this.  Such teachers and staff members also have a stake in breathing healthful air.

5.  Without some bungalows, it will be difficult or impossible to squeeze all the kids into our K-8 facilities.

5A.  I voted against adding bungalows earlier this year, because I felt that we should first reduce the number of students whose families are misrepresenting that they reside in Beverly Hills and/or cut the permit program to minimize the number of bungalows.   My prior thinking on this is available by clicking here.

6.  I worry a lot about the need for seismic upgrades at all the schools & believe that the bungalows would be among the safest facilities in the District in an earthquake.  However, as I stated many times prior to the EWG report, my ultimate goal is a bungalow-free district.  In my view, bungalows are probably a necessary evil until the modernization is complete, but it is not wise to have EXTRA bungalows to accomodate children who are in the District based on fraud, or based on a bloated, corrupt permit program.

7.  If someone has a better idea for handling the modernization, I am all ears.   However, if we can provide a level of air quality in the bungalows that meets a reasonable community standard, I believe that this will best serve the children of the District, until the modernization is complete.

8.   My youngest child is going into the 8th grade at Beverly Vista next year.  This will be his 5th year in the bungalows, and for all I know he was in some of the worst bungalows in the District.  My oldest child was in the bungalows for two years. 

9.  Am I concerned that my own children may have been exposed to high levels of toxic substances because of a failure to adequately ventilate the bungalows?   Absolutely. 

10.  Will I send my youngest son back to BV unless I am extremely confident that the air is safe?  NO! 

11.  Will I ask anyone else to send their kids back to the bungalows until I am extremely confident that they are safe?  NO!

12.  If we have to rip every bungalow out of every school and replace all the bungalows at enormous expense to the District in order to be extremely confident that the air quality will be acceptable,  I am willing to do this.  However, based on my research thus far, I am hopeful that there will be a more affordable solution that will preserve funds that are desperately needed for other purposes.

13.  I want our community committee to carefully consider all of these issues and advise us.  I have an open mind, and often change my mind based on ideas from community members.   However, I believe that we have an absolute duty to provide safe facilities and that this is the one priority that is even more important than providing a quality education.  Sadly, we may have to cut some programs to pay for safety.  Insuring air quality may cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a worst case scenario.  However, when the health of our students is at stake and assuming that there is no reasonable alternative, I will give priority to health and safety over education.

14.  Lots of people are saying that the Board is trying to sweep this problem under the rug.  I challenge them to give me the name of any other District that has moved as quickly as we have to respond to the EWG report, so that we can call such District and ask for advice.  Hopefully, people will see from the above discussion that there is ZERO possibility that anyone will even try to sweep this under the rug.  If they do, I am confident that at least a majority of the Board will nail them for this and make absolutely certain that the safety of our students takes appropriate priority, even if this means sacrificing other items that are less important.

15.  Parents are legally obligated to send their children to school.  If the air is unhealthful, this puts parents to the choice of private school or risking their children's health.  We should not and, I believe, will not put parents to such choice.

16.  Will our schools ever have air that is completely free of toxic substances?   Maybe, but only if the outside air quality improves significantly.  We have no control over the fact that the air in Southern California is highly polluted by vehicle exhausts and industrial emissions.  Blame the state and the federal government and the governments of other countries for this, because the school board has no power over it.  All we can provide to our students in terms of air is the air that blows onto our campuses.  Such air comes to us already full of carcinogens.  Absent some filtration system that has not yet been invented, the most that we can hope for is a negligable difference between the inside air and the outside air.  With adequate ventilation (which should turn over the air in each room at least 8 times per hour) and a vigilant, aggressive anti-mold program, I believe that we can achieve a high level of confidence that we are providing  a safe environment for our students and our employees.

17.  I hate bungalows.  Both of my sons have been robbed of the opportunity to enjoy decent facilities, along with thousands of other children.  However, absent some place to house hundreds of children during modernization, I can live with bungalows as a TEMPORARY evil, so long as we can be confident that they are safe.

Click here to see a very informative letter from EWG, which makes it clear that bungalows can be made safe.  This does not mean that we don't need to get rid of some or all of the bungalows.  However, EWG does not appear to agree with those parents who seem to feel that ALL bungalows are unacceptable.

 

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