Department of Education officials insist New York City schools are safe from Legionnaires' after recent reports that a beloved music teacher at P.S. 325 in the South Bronx died of the disease back in April.
That assurance isn't good enough for the teachers union, which is calling in its environmental staff to do a walk-through of the Urban Science Academy campus on Teller Ave., where the school is housed.
Last April, a music teacher, James Rouse, 52, died of Legionnaires, his family told DNAinfo. City officials never formally linked the death to the outbreak, or to the school. Still, the United Federation of Teachers wants a further look-see.
The official death toll from the outbreak stands at 12.
Samples from the hot water system at PS 325 will be tested after an inspection of the school next week, according to New York Daily News. There are no cooling towers -- where Legionnaires is often found -- at the school.
“Teachers and parents would have felt more secure if the DOE (Department of Education) had checked the building’s water and ventilation systems after the disease was reported,” said Ellie Engler, United Federation of Teachers staff director, in a statement,
The Deputy Press Secretary of NYC Department of Education, Jason Fink, responded that "all proper protocols have been followed. There is no evidence the school was the source of exposure and no other cases have been reported among students or staff."
Yet, not far from PS 325, inspectors found legionella bacteria at Samuel Gompers High School, which will be cleaned before school starts, reported DNA.info.
According to Levi Fishman, Deputy Press Secretary at the NYC Health Department, of the 200 to 300 legionella cases reported each year, many cannot be traced to a specific source, especially when no other cases are reported in the same environment.
Regarding the teacher, Fishman corroborated Fink's statement that no other cases were reported where the teacher worked or lived. Jason Fink also noted that PS 325's building does not have a cooling tower. Both responses sought to explain the city's lack of inspection at the school.
When asked if schools in the South Bronx are safe, Fink told Metro that "parents should be assured that the safety of our students is always our top priority.”
The Health Department also assured that every reported case of Legionnaires has been investigated.
"We speak to either the patient or a close family member to assess environmental exposures that could be the source of the infection," Levi Fisherman, spokeswoman at the Health Department, told Metro.
Meanwhile, the close family members of the deceased teacher are outraged by the city's lack of a thorough investigation.
"My brother was the canary in the coal mine," stated John Rouse in DNA.info.