New reports show widespread mold in classroom trailers at three high schools in Queens. Education reporter Lindsey Christ has the details in an exclusive follow-up to her special series from a few weeks ago.
Water leaking in through cracked walls. Mold growing in ceilings from vents.
The photo seen above was taken by a teacher at Richmond Hill High School of the ceiling of one of the nearly two dozen trailers where hundreds of students go to class.
"They're kept in deplorable conditions, where they don't clean them properly," said Charles diBenedetto, a teacher at Richmond Hill High School. "The floors sink in because the moisture seeps in through the sheet metal that's outside, seeping in through the walls, causing the floors to bevel and crack. Some of our trailers actually have metal plates where the floors should be, so that way, nobody falls through the floor."
DiBenedetto requested an inspection by the teachers' union's health unit. So did teachers at Cardoza High School. At Francis Lewis High School, teacher Arthur Goldstein called the union after being interviewed by NY1 for a previous report on trailer conditions.
"Although I thought our trailers were OK, I thought, 'Oh my God, I better get somebody to look at them,'" Goldstein said.
He thought they were OK because they'd recently been repaired, but at all three schools, inspectors found heavy visible mold.
The reports conclude that "The most troubling aspect is the return of mold growth after the cleanup...There are too many sources of moisture intrusion into these units that cannot be mitigated."
Most of the city's 357 classroom trailers were installed in the '90s, designed to last a decade.
"They need to go," said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Queens. "They're substandard. They're inadequate. No child deserves to attend a class in a trailer."
The Department is required to put out an annual report on the number of students in trailers, but it only counts elementary- and middle-school students whose primary classroom is in one of them. That's more than 8,000 students, but it doesn't include the likely thousands of students in high schools.
The DOE responded quickly to the health reports, cleaning trailers at Francis Lewis and Cardozo in the days before school started. At Richmond Hill, the DOE said that students have been temporarily removed from the moldy units until they're made safe.