With signs in tow, Edgewater Elementary School parents set out to make their voices heard at Thursday night's public hearing to discuss Superintendent Kevin Maxwell's proposed budget for fiscal year 2013.
More than 50 concerned parents and educators filled the board room, taking up almost half of the available seating. Prior to the meeting, Edgewater Elementary PTA president Jenny Corkill said the group had one thing to say.
"Our children can't wait ‘til 2016 to address the unhealthy environment at our school," Corkill said.
Edgewater Elementary is scheduled to undergo a feasibility study for renovations and upgrades in 2016, but it's a date too far in the future for many parents who say mold build-up and poor air quality is taking a physical toll on their children.
At least three parents addressed the school board Thursday night, citing their child's exposure to Edgewater Elementary and it's "environment" as the sole reason for serious coughing problems or regressions into asthmatic symptoms.
Sue Danielson, a pediatric nurse practitioner and parent at the school, said she was appalled when she visited Edgewater Elementary and learned of its need for renovation.
"As a specialist, I was banging my head against the wall about why my son's symptoms were so bad. I couldn't figure out the problem," Danielson said. "I realized I was sending him to the problem every day [at Edgewater Elementary]."
Danielson told the board she sometimes is forced to give her 7-year-old son "adult amount" doses of medicine to quench his cough. The local mom also said if the board doesn't expedite its feasibility study of Edgewater Elementary, she plans to transfer her son to a new school.
"I want every single room tested and I want the results to be public," Danielson said. "Show me that work is being done and that you care."
At least two other parents from the school told the board their children are suffering from asthmatic symptoms due to the school's "unhealthy conditions."
Despite the outpouring of concern from Edgewater Elementary parents, Anne Arundel County Board of Education President Patricia Nalley said some of the parents at the hearing might have been misinformed about the school's "unhealthy environment."
"Some of the information [parents discussed] was hearsay tonight," Nalley said after the hearing. "I would send my children to [Edgewater Elementary]."
Parents also addressed a recent study that revealed unnaturally high levels of CO2 at the school, possibly causing lethargy and headaches. But Nalley said other factors could have affected the reading.
"Sometimes the CO2 levels can be offset by the number of children in the room," the board president said.
To conclude the hearing, vice president of Meade High School's PTA, Otis Duffy, declared that Edgewater Elementary's "unhealthy environment" should be atop the school board's list of priorities.
"I couldn't sit there and not do anything," Duffy said. "My heart was filled with understanding. We're all parents and we want what's best for our kids."