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Mold worries parents at South Charleston Middle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parents of South Charleston Middle School students are outraged over mold and other ongoing faulty building conditions they say they reported to the Board of Education a year ago.

Kanawha County Schools has hired an outside environmental agency to conduct air quality testing at the school next week, according to Superintendent Ron Duerring.

Sarah Providenti, a seventh-grader at South Charleston Middle, says she has been to the doctor eight times with respiratory problems since school started last month.

Tests revealed that she is allergic to mold, though she had never faced problems in the past, and now she suffers from daily headaches and is required to take an allergy shot once a day, according to her mother, Kristi.

"I feel horrible every day and I don't feel like going to school, but I have to," Sarah, an honor roll student, told board members at a meeting Thursday evening. "I love South Charleston Middle but these problems have to be cleaned up. I don't think it's fair that I have to deal with being sick or give up the school I love."

Visible water leaks and mold are prevalent throughout the school, including in classrooms, hallways and in the auditorium, with most of the problem rooted to the roof, according to South Charleston parent David Haden.

"The conditions there are criminal. Absolutely criminal," Haden said. "I'm very, very upset. I came to this board last fall about roof leaks and thought I had gotten some action taken, but it amounted to Band-Aids for a very serious problem. ... It's only gotten worse."

Haden says that teachers have also complained of health problems.

Board members voted Thursday for South Charleston Middle to be the subject of its Major Improvement Project submitted to the School Building Authority this year. If approved by the SBA, the school's gym and auditorium HVAC system will be replaced -- another ongoing problem at the school.

Plans are already in the works for the school to receive a new roof, Duerring said, but it takes time.

Parents in Thursday's audience yelled things like, "The kids are getting sick and you all don't care" and, "Keep our kids safe and teach them."

But this isn't the first time Kanawha County Schools has gotten into hot water with parents over building conditions.

In 2009, a former teacher and student from Andrew Jackson Middle School sued the school board, alleging that poor air quality and mold in the building made them sick.

The lawsuit claimed that the Kanawha County Board of Education "willfully ignored" the complaints and failed to warn students and employees of potential dangers.

In recent years, parents at Andrews Heights Elementary School also complained of mold underneath the school's portable buildings.

The school board will address the issue again at October's monthly meeting, and board President Pete Thaw assured parents that some of the issues will be remedied before then.

"You come back in a month, and if there's no action, you can raise all the hell you want. But I'm telling you, there will be action," Thaw said. "This board isn't going to put up with this."

The school board will also address concerns about the school year's Aug. 9 start date at next month's meeting.

Representatives from the county's branch of the West Virginia Education Association told board members Thursday that teachers are unhappy about the early start and have not been allowed enough input on next year's plans. Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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