Some students at Tates Creek High School wore surgical masks to classes Monday to protest problems with mold and poor air quality in the school that reportedly are affecting the health of students and staff.
Student Danica Moon said she and others distributed 100 surgical masks to students by 8:30 a.m. Monday in hopes that district officials will take notice and speed up a renovation planned for 2020 to correct heating and air conditioning system problems.
The protest was a week after a teacher and a parent at Tates Creek told the Fayette County school board that mold and poor air quality were making staff and students sick.
“We’re protesting Fayette County and not our school administration itself,” Danica said. District officials said last week that extensive testing has been conducted, and there are no health or a safety threats, and district officials will continue to respond to concerns.
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Not everyone is convinced.
“That mold has been in the vents for years on end,” student Blake Francis said. “We have no idea how many total people have been exposed to the mold, but all we know it is a lot. People with asthma and other conditions all go to the Creek, which may not be the best combination with the mold. What will it take before (the school district) takes a plan of action? The mold problem at Tates Creek isn’t secluded to a room or a hallway either. The mold can be found in random tiles in the ceiling in rooms scattered throughout the school.”
Student Kaylin Hassur said she came up with the idea for the protest, and she had the support of her mother.
“I know how much it has affected me and how much it has affected my classmates,” Kaylin said. “If it’s not fixed until 2020, that’s way too late.”
Chief of high schools Randy Peffer said district officials are aware of social media posts encouraging students to wear surgical massk to school Monday in response to an article in the Herald-Leader last week.
“This morning, 8 to 10 students were wearing surgical masks briefly before the beginning of the school day. There was no disruption, and we are having a regular day of learning,” Peffer said. “Since we encourage freedom of expression and civic engagement for our students, we applaud their respectful show of support for their school.”
He said in a statement that district operations chief Myron Thompson said during last week’s school board meeting that “air quality tests show that concerns raised last fall have been addressed and eliminated. The roof at Tates Creek High School will be replaced this spring, and a major renovation of the building is one of the next projects included in the facilities plan.”
Thompson has said that renovating Tates Creek is high on the district’s list of unmet needs. It’s one of nine schools scheduled for renovation.
Thompson said the roof at Tates Creek will be fixed before the renovation, but the heating and ventilation system will require extensive renovation. He said construction that includes heating and ventilation will begin about 2020 and will take two years to be completed. Before that, he said, as teachers bring maintenance or risk management problems to the attention of district officials, those will be fixed.
Danica Moon, the student, said, “There are a plethora of positive things that I love about Tates Creek. And this protest has brought those positive things out. Students of all walks of life have come together in this act of civic engagement, and it’s been a wonderful experience."