It turns out the teachers had checked into emergency rooms. Some couldn't breathe. Several had pulsing headaches. Spontaneous nosebleeds plagued one woman.
The reason, according to three teachers interviewed by Riptide: Mold. Lots of it. In dark green dots all over the building.
So far, at least seven employees at the Little Havana school — which is primarily low-income — have left on workers' compensation. It's a Petri dish for mold: It's dimly lit, with few windows and poor ventilation. Even the principal became ill.
"The administration put its budget before my health," says one first-grade teacher who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job. "It's bad."
A second teacher has gone on four kinds of medication. "I can't be in that building... And my kids are constantly getting sick."
In December, school administrators "wet-wiped" surfaces, according to public records. But they didn't check for mold because such tests are "variable and inconclusive," says Ralph Cruz-Muñoz, director of asbestos management for the school board.
Still, teachers say all the symptoms can't be a coincidence. They wonder why classrooms were not moved temporarily into portables. And they say the December cleaning did not fix the problem. Adds a third teacher: "The place is still filthy."
Artie Leichner, the teachers' union vice president, has a solution: Stay on top of maintenance and inspect for mold. "This is a very big concern," he says. "It's an ongoing facility issue."
John Schuster, a district spokesman, points out a deeper cleaning is scheduled for the summer. "It is unfortunate that this occurred, but we are doing what we can to address it."