Stamford mold-related illness claims up to nearly 150
STAMFORD — Nearly 150 Stamford Public School employees have filed worker’s injury claims due to mold exposure.
The 148 claims represent 38 percent of all claims made by city employees in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to a report released by the district. The report shows teachers and paraprofessionals had another 80 claims not related to mold, bringing them to a total 228 claims coming from district employees and making them far and above all other city departments in regards to worker’s comp claims this year.
The city overall has had 393 claims filed since July.
Board of Education members expressed some skepticism about the number from teachers and paraprofessionals, pointing out that only three members of district facilities staff — which includes custodians — have filed mold-related claims.
“The custodian claims are much lower,” said Board of Education member Nicola Tarzia. “Why are the teachers so, so, so much higher than custodian claims and the custodians are cleaning up the mold? Some of the teachers might be taking advantage — I’m just making a personal statement.”
In December, the district announced at least 93 employees from Westhill, Westover Magnet (which moved campuses last month due to mold infestation), Newfield, K.T. Murphy, Hart Magnet and Northeast elementary schools filed claims of illness due to mold. Some were only out short-term, but many more were vocal about the symptoms they experienced which many described as being akin to having a constant head cold.
The most recent report shows the majority of claims came from K.T. Murphy, Newfield, Westover and Northeast. But by far the highest number of claims, 85, have come from Westhill. The report does not break out which of these claims are mold-related on a school by school basis.
In response, the district tried to have some teachers “lesson plan” out of central office, only for them to file more claims because there was suspected mold there as well.
District reports show the majority of the claims from Board of Education employees came in October, November and December.
The report also shows a predicted 768 claims citywide by the end of the year, if employees file mold exposure claims at the same rate, which is not predicted to happen.
The current mold-related claims filed since July already exceed the total claims from school personnel for the previous two fiscal years, 102 in 2017-18 and 98 in 2016-17.
So far, the average claim cost has been less than $2,000 this year for Board of Education-related complaints. However, if past years are indicative, the claims could cost the city a fair amount of money. Last year, worker’s compensation claims cost the city $2.8 million. This year, the cost has already reached $1.5 million.
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