Consultant hired to evaluate Lamarque Elementary ditches district

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. --  Lamarque Elementary has been at the center of controversy since its opening in 2006. Administrators, teachers and students have reported pungent smells wafting through the hallways, and staff members have been transported to the hospital after being overcome by the mysterious odor.  

As part of their plan for dealing with the reports, Sarasota County school officials hired consultant James McCluskey, a doctor with ties to USF in Tampa, to review the situation and determine whether or not Lamarque had a real problem.  McCluskey billed the county for over $30,000 worth of services, but he never completed the work or issued a final report.

"We always looked at it from a building perspective so now we wanted to take a medical perspective and work backwards, so that was the point of bring Dr. McCluskey in," said Jody Dumas, Director of Facility Services for the school district. He told ABC7 they spent a lot of time during the last school year testing the air quality inside the school building.

"We ended up getting all the way to NIOSH which is the national organization for indoor air quality, the kind of end all be all," said Dumas.

He said NIOSH "came in and reviewed everything that we had done, all the testing we had done and basically said we agree with everything you did."

He says the district wanted to be 100% certain the building is safe; and they hired McCluskey during the same time last November while they were still working with NIOSH.

"He came in and did his initial walk around; he did clinical visits with nine individuals from the school."

The district paid McCluskey $30,295 for work he completed by February. Dumas said McCluskey was in a meeting with all the other consultants and school board officials when he gave an oral report.

"He said I don't see any smoking gun at this point, he said, I don't see

anything I can point you to right now."

Dumas says McCluskey stopped returning calls before completing a written

report and the district decided to terminate his contract.

"At the end of the report I can't say what would have been in it because

we don't have it, it is an unfortunate thing and we are disappointed

with that," said Dumas.

Despite the lack of written report from McCluskey, he says the district is 100% confident that Larmarque Elementary is a safe and clean building.

"This is the most tested school in the district and we came back with

nothing out of the ordinary so I would feel more comfortable with my

daughter here than at a place we have never tested because we know we

are not seeing anything here."

Dumas is not expecting any problems at Lamarque Elementary School this

year, but he says if there are any concerns they will start a new

complaint and address the issues when and if they occur.