MALIBU — An environmental expert hired by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District met with concerned parents, teachers and community members on Thursday for an update on many pressing questions looming over the environmental issues at the school.

“How long is it going to take to know we are safe?” one parent asked.

The heated meeting, hosted by the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), lasted more than two hours while expert Mark Katchen fielded questions and vowed to begin environmental testing at the high school next week. Some environmental tests are expected to be completed by Nov. 22, officials said, and the school district promised to make those results available immediately.

An initial study recently found that mold levels are the school were normal. The report also showed that teachers first approached the school district about environmental quality concerns in 2010.

A group of teachers raised health concerns earlier this month in a letter to district officials. Three teachers have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since February, one is on medication for thyroid problems, six suffer recurring migraines, one with asthma and one teacher has had a rash for six years.

Many parents on Thursday wondered why they had not been notified of possible risks sooner, including in 2011 when the district removed 48 truckloads of contaminated soil from the middle school building area.

Katchen said he plans on working with another consultant who was hired independently by a new coalition called Malibu Parents for Healthy Schools. The group has retained Paul Rosenfeld of Soil, Water, Air Protection Enterprise (SWAPE) to make recommendations for the types of testing that should be conducted by the district. Rosenfeld and his clients submitted official letters to the school district this week, pushing for testing to be heavily focused on air quality at the school and possibly contaminated soils under the middle school building.


This article first appeared in The Malibu Times.

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