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Pori parents keep kids home from school in mould problem protest

The Vähärauma primary school in Pori, western Finland was nearly empty of its 500 pupils on Friday.

Vähärauman koulu mielenilmaus Pori Vähärauma koululakko
Parents and students protested the city of Pori's mould policy on Friday. Image: Rami Koivula / Yle

Most parents of students at Vähärauma primary school joined together in protest of the school's persistent mould problem, keeping their kids out of class for the day on Friday.

The school's oldest building, built in 1929, will be shut down starting at the end of October, when students will be moved out. The city will then determine whether it is possible to renovate the facility or if it needs to be replaced entirely.

However many parents feel their kids shouldn't go back to the school at all until the issues are resolved, and made their opinion heard by keeping kids home from school on Friday.

The city of Pori held a discussion session with parents at the Vähärauma school on Tuesday, but the meeting reportedly did little to appease the concerned parents.

Mould infestations in public buildings are not unique to Pori.

On Thursday Yle reported about a survey of Finnish schools, which found that about 48,000 primary school students – or about 9 percent of all such students across Finland – are in temporary facilities because their schools are too small or because they're being repaired to address issues like mould.

New log structures help

Farther north, the Moilanen family relocated to the town of Pudasjärvi some 110 km north-east of Oulu in an effort to ease their daughter's severe allergic reactions to mould. However, the daughter has become particularly sensitive to allergens in general.

A new school campus in the area was constructed using timber logs, a building material found to be better at preventing mould problems from starting than other materials.

The Moilanens even moved into their own timber home, but their daughter continues to suffer allergic symptoms from things like detergents. The family has also had to throw out some of their furniture, which have picked up allergens.

Head of the Parents' Association, Ulla Siimes said that different municipalities have very different ways of dealing with indoor air problems and the students affected by them.

"Some municipalities are not prepared or able to make any arrangements, so parents take matters into their own hands," Siimes said.

"Children are on an unequal footing based on their home regions," she said.

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