A Tates Creek High School teacher and parent this week told Fayette County Board of Education members that mold and poor air quality in the school are affecting the health of students and staff, and making it harder for students to learn.
“The amount of mold present in our building is causing staff and students to experience significant illnesses that prevent them from working and learning to their full potential,” said teacher Jennifer Adams in asking the board to speed up a planned renovation.
“I’ve had two students in particular who suffer from migraines severe enough to keep them home from school and both have noted the migraines are much more severe and frequent during the school year,” Adams said. “One of our science teachers has been dealing with significant respiratory problems over the past several years. She’s had to use an inhaler at times when she’s been unable to breathe properly during a school day and her doctor has verified that her problems are due to a severe mold allergy she’s developed since working at Tates Creek.”
Myron Thompson, the district chief operating officer, 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.
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Thompson, on Monday, said there “are no immediate health issues today as we stand.”
“We work very closely with the staff, the custodial staff and the principal in terms of addressing this issue,” he said. “We’ve done extensive sampling in terms of indoor air quality and there are no mold issues presently but we do anticipate those to pick up in the spring.” He said mold was a common problem in Kentucky.
Adams provided several examples of problems.
She said a new teacher has started weekly immunotherapy in the last several months because she’s had such a bad allergic reaction to the mold.
Adams herself has been experiencing sinus headaches, congestion and sore throats almost constantly this school year. She said she tested positive to the same strain of mold found in her classroom and said her doctor is confident that mold exposure is causing her illness.
Adams said that when she arrived in her classroom in late July to start setting up for this school year, she had green mold covering a patch on the wall and on student tables. In September, she found green mold growing on one of her classroom ceiling tiles.
She said the visible mold was cleaned up within a few days thanks to the custodial staff..
“My biggest concern now is the air quality,” Adams said. Because of high room temperatures and humidity, she is worried about the mold returning.
“The teachers in our school have been raising concerns about mold in our building for years now,” Adams said. “Our principals have been very supportive in requesting help with this issue from the district. There’s been testing done on several areas of our building that show high levels of mold. Unfortunately, the recommendation offered for eliminating mold is a short-term solution that’s not preventing it from coming back.”
She said “significant mold growth has been reported in several areas of the building” and there have been leaks from classroom ceilings and the roof.
Adams said there are problems with the school’s HVAC, or heating and air conditioning system, which she said is undersized and antiquated. That and the leaks are a cause of the mold growth, she said.
Becki Pfister is a parent of a Tates Creek High School student who is being treated for migraines that started when she began spending more time in the building for dance team practice. Pfister, who is employed by Tates Creek Middle School, said she had no problems with how the staff at Tates Creek High School is handling her concerns.
But she felt compelled to approach school board members about air-quality issues and moving up the timeline for a planned renovation when she was told there were other students and staff who were sick.
“Tates Creek High School is full of amazing educators and they deserve a better facility if for no other reason than the health of the students and the staff,” Pfister told board members. “I hope that you all will make it a priority.”
Thompson said the roof at Tates Creek will be fixed prior to the renovation, but the HVAC would require extensive renovation. Thompson is forecasting that construction that includes the HVAC issue will begin sometime around 2020 and be completed sometime around 2022. However, he said that as teachers bring maintenance or risk management issues to the attention of district officials, those will be fixed.
Adams said that Tates Creek High School officials had been very responsive. “They’ve done everything they can with the resources they have. Now it’s up to the district to give us the renovation that we need in replacing the HVAC system.” she said.