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Controversy involving leaks, county administrator likely to come up in closed session
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Halifax County High School has finished the installation of new basketball goals in the school gym.
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MIRED IN MOLD
SoVaNow.com / August 29, 2013Mold has spread through parts of Halifax County High School — the result, officials believe, of a wet, humid summer, coupled with roof repairs over the A wing of the HCHS building.
The infestation has created a potential building hazard — School Board chair Kim Farson said she has had to take her own high-school age child to the doctor with respiratory problems — and prompted school officials to seek out an outside expert to assess the scope of the damage.
Following a Wednesday morning meeting with School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon, Farson and High School Principal Albert Randolph agreed on a plan of action to address the mold outbreak.
“We are bringing in an outside consultant who specializes in this kind of problem to test our air quality,” said Farson. “We will then decide on what our next step will be, depending on the data he gives us from his inspection.”
Farson said Randolph had scheduled a staff meeting with HCHS teachers and personnel at 3:25 on Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on measures under way to deal with the mold.
Randolph said affected areas include classrooms on the first floor of the A wing (which is on the underground level), as well as the girls locker room in the basement of the gymnasium, and portions of the second and third floors of the A wing.
Maintenance Director Larry Roller says his department is doing everything it can to address the problem. He said he has consulted EPA recommendations and talked with an industrial hygienist on further steps the maintenance staff should take.
Roller said he was unaware of the presence of mold until he received a call Thursday, Aug. 22, concerning a teacher who was complaining about mold in her classroom. He went to the high school on Friday morning to inspect the affected area and then checked it again on Saturday, being careful to go over the space above the ceiling tiles. He also made a checklist for the school’s custodians to follow, instructing them to use a soapy water solution and carefully scrub down all moldy surfaces.
“When I went back on Monday morning it seemed they (the custodians) had done a good job,” Roller said. One classroom with carpet was given a very thorough vacuuming, said Roller, adding that the work seemed to help.
Herndon, however, said this week that she believes carpeting in any of the affected classrooms should be removed, since it is likely to encourage the mold’s continued growth.
Roller also met with Randolph, the HCHS principal, for a joint inspection of the entire school on Tuesday. In the meantime, dehumidifiers have been placed in several classrooms, he said.
On Tuesday Herndon said she was contacted this week by a parent who said she had had to take her child to the doctor due to respiratory issues. Herndon also said she was advised that one teacher had been moved out of one affected classroom.
Jennifer Stevens, who serves as the youth group leader at Dan River Baptist Church, said several parents had spoken to her about the mold problem over the weekend. Stevens, a past school board candidate, said the parents complained about their children having continuing headaches since the start of school. Another parent told her that her son has been more congested than usual ever since school started. While mold has not yet caused more serious issues, she said she was anxious to see it dealt with before matters get worse.
Stevens, who has two sons at the high school, said one of her boys has asthma and is highly allergic to mold.
Roller, speculating on the reasons for the mold outbreak, explained that exhaust fans were removed from sections of the building where roof repairs took place this summer, and the wet and humid summer weather likely only added to the problem. The roof installation was completed only ten days before the opening of school, Roller said. While exhaust fans were placed back on the roof, they were not hooked back up until last Thursday, leaving rooms hot and humid.
“It just dragged on and on,” Herndon said of the roof repairs, “due to the heavy rains. Those rooms were hot and humid for an extended period.”
School board member, ED-5 trustee Roger Long, said he fears the problem may be more serious than initially believed. Long said the mold issue is not likely to be overcome until the source of the water is found. “If you drive by the school slowly, you can notice moisture lines across the front of the building, and until we know exactly where the water is coming from and where it’s going I don’t think we can resolve the problem,” Long said.
He noted that bricks along one wall of the HCHS building are deteriorating: “We’re facing a crisis with our schools and with the cuts in state funding not being replaced by local funds, we are facing a big problem,” Long said.
He noted that construction of the high school began back in 1976, making the building well over 30 years old. “Schools are expected to last 40 years and we’re fast approaching that time,” said Long.
Trustee, Phyllis Smith of ED-1, said she, too, is worried by the prospect of an ongoing mold issue. Smith called on the School Board to get a full report on a plan of action to rid the school of any and all mold.
“This is a serious problem. It’s nothing to mess around with, and I want to see someone from outside our system who specializes in this kind of thing to come in and advise us,” said Smith.
Farson said she is extremely disturbed by the mold problem after her own child’s respiratory issues worsened with the onset of classes at the high school. However, Farson said yesterday that she is confident after having met with Herndon and Randolph Wednesday that the plan to seek out an outside consultant will lead to a resolution of the problem.
“We are going to do what we have to do to rid the school of mold and ensure the health of our students,” she said.
CommentsA $10million dollar courthouse renovation, local unemployment at 10.4 percent, and now the notion of a 40 year old disposable high school. That's about right.
- By Peon on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsWell, let's see if I can help figure out where that water is coming from??? Uuummm, if my recollection serves me correctly, the High School was built on top of swamp land. Maybe that's where the water is coming from??
- By Catherine Wright on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsWhy weren't the exhaust fans hooked up immediately after they were re-installed? The maintenance department knows exactly how it gets in that building when there is no air circulating.
A visible water line along the front of the building indicates that the mold issue is not a result of the the roof replacement. That merely exacerbated the problem. The mold problem has been going on for some time.
Ask any of the long time employees at the high school about the mold problem. It's not something that just surfaced.
- By SoBoVa on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsThis is NOT a new problem! It's election year!! And Kim Farson is up for reelection!
- By Christy on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsThere was a huge mold problem in that school when I was there. I was in the asthma doctor's office every week
- By jess bruno on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsStop it people. Just stop it. Don't you know you are not supposed to question the official narrative that this is a problem that developed during the summer of 2013 due to unprecedented rainfall. We cannot have public officials held accountable. Seriously, what is wrong with you all? And don't you dare mention interior roof inspections during rain storms.
- By Outraged on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsThere was mold problems in that school in 1980. There was mold problems in that school when I worked there in the 90's this is nothing new. WE built new elementary schools when we should have been building new high schools. Don't get me started on that courthouse thing. 10 mill.and all because of judges. Judges and all government officials have to much power.
- By allpolitical2 on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsThe mold was known about and mentioned to school officials prior to this. New air filters were placed and the units they were connected to not turned on over the summer, so when Roller was approached and asked about mold he showed officials the brand new air filters saying they had been in place for months and showed no sign of mold. Despite people being in the high school all through the summer many of those A/C units were never turned on, with no air flow through the brand new filters of course there was no sign.
Expected arrival of an EPA inspector is 3-5 weeks and attempts are being made to cover up not clean up.
- By Anonymous on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsApparently the powers that be are trying to pass this off as a NEW issue that has suddenly developed just over this wet summer!! SO not true. BLACK GOOP that ANYONE who saw it could know was mold, has been dripping and oozing out of vents for YEARS over there..and my last child graduated in 2006. It was an issue while he was there and while my daughter was there also, graduating 4 years earlier. HCHS has been what is referred to as a "sick building" for years. One can tell just by looking that it sits in basically a sink hole. Some how, the issue has to be dealt with, but do not think the public is gullible enough to think this just happened over the summer.
- By Mary Mitchell on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsI failed to add that both of my children KEPT upper respiratory symptoms, headaches and upper respiratory infections while over there but have had no more than an average person since they moved on . They would be better at home in summer , only to have those symptoms return in the school year. This seems to be a very familiar story with others also.
- By Mary Mitchell on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsOk "Mired in Mold", you've done it now. Now you will experience what your buddy "Unexpected Visit By The Feds" did.
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.
- By Censored on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsElection year! The school board is trying to cover up all the bad they have caused with one good thing! Political stunt!
- By Christy on 08 / 29 / 13
CommentsAs far as I understand, mold has been an issue in the school for YEARS. Many teachers I've known have complained of having to clean mold off tables, chairs, etc. after the short two month summer break for many years before. Students have complained of illness, and apparently teachers as well. This ISN'T something new brought on by summer roof work.
Also, if the school board is HIRING an agency to assess the situation, isn't that a conflict of interest? I'd rather see parents or teachers contact someone with no connections to the county to assess the school.
- By Jason on 08 / 29 / 13
Commentsthey should have check the building before school open up I have a niece who is in special class I hope that problem isn't where she is. they need to fix that problem before every kid get sick.
- By susan valdes on 08 / 30 / 13
CommentsChild exposure to mold is definitely serious, esp when that child intolerance or allergy is previously unknown. Learned the hard way ironically when on relocating to Halifax took a rental with a couple in the Halifax County School System whose house was thick in mold. My kid was sick very often. Left the rental and they took my security deposit.
- By sinus_infection on 08 / 30 / 13
CommentsAll you need to do is look up a mold resteration company that would come out and do the proper inspection. You can go on the web to IICRC.com and find a certified company to handle this problem. There is none in this county that I know of. To do mold resteration yo
u have to attend special schools. Mold is very dangerous to play around with!
I would also like to know what they plan to do about the copperhead snake problem in the elementary school?
- By Sylvia Tooley on 09 / 02 / 13
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