Monday, October 29, 2018

Letter To Parents of Oconee County Elementary School Addresses Concerns About Mold And Mildew In Classroom

***Issue Raised At Board Meeting***

Oconee County Elementary School Principal Ashley Templeton sent a letter to parents and staff last week to reassure them that the school has not had a problem with mold.

Templeton took the action following a statement by Brandi Herndon, a moderator of the Facebook group, Parents Improving Oconee Schools, to the Board of Education earlier this month that she had been told of a “mold or mildew problem” at the school.

Templeton said in the letter sent to parents and staff that repairs had been made to a third grade classroom after a leak from a clogged drain in a heating, venting and air conditioning unit had been discovered.

Ceiling tiles and carpet were replaced in the classroom, which was “thoroughly cleaned of any mildew that was present due to the leak,” Templeton wrote.

Templeton said that the air quality of the classroom has been tested and found to be normal.

In the letter, Templeton stated that “there is no mold issue” at the school.

Comments To Board

Herndon, 1020 Echo Trail, outside Watkinsville, told the Board at its Oct. 15 meeting that she is the parent of a fifth grader at Oconee County Elementary School.

Herndon Before Board

Herndon said she had received “two anonymous reports” about the problem at the school and listed six demands of the Board she said she was making on behalf of herself and “other concerned OCES parents.”

The demands were for full disclosure, restricted access, sampling for mold conducted by professionals, a full report of the results, a remediation plan, and follow-up testing.

As is usual, no member of the Board or administrative staff responded to Herndon’s comments after she made them.

“Generally, there will be no response to comments or questions posed by citizens at the meeting,” Board Chair Tom Odom, reading from Board policy, told Herndon before she spoke.

Mold Vs. Mildew

Herndon said that the parents who reported to her about the problem said “mold or mildew” was present in the classroom.

Mildew and mold are both fungi, and both can cause allergic reactions. Mildew is easier to eliminate and is less of a threat.

“At no time has mold been present in Oconee County Elementary School, that is, besides mold that is always present in interior and exterior air,” Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of Communications for Oconee County Schools, told me in an email message on Oct. 24.

“There was, however, mildew in a third grade classroom due to a leak in a roof drain pipe,” she said.

Reason For Templeton Letter

Templeton said she was sending out her letter to parents and staff because “many of you have recently become aware of an allegation of mold at OCES.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to assure you that there is no mold at our school and to provide insight into how a recent facilities issue was handled,” the Oct. 24 letter continued.

The Oconee Enterprise reported on page A3 of its Oct. 18, 2018, edition about Herndon’s comments to the Board of Education earlier that week.

The paper ran an editorial on page A4 of that same edition saying “Oconee County Schools shouldn’t play dice with your child’s health.”

Action Taken

At the beginning of the school year, teachers have five days to prepare their classrooms, and, according to Templeton, “one of our third grade teachers let me know that she had concerns about humidity in her classroom.”

The School system Operations Division placed a dehumidifier in the classroom, Templeton wrote, but this did not fix the issue.

A specialist brought in to help address the issue found a clogged drain for the heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, she wrote.

A hole also was found in a roof pipe drain near the classroom, according to Templeton’s letter.

The hole was repaired in mid-September, Templeton said, and the ceiling tiles and carpet were replaced last month.

“The classroom was thoroughly cleaned of any mildew that was present due to the leak,” she wrote.

Students Relocated

While the repairs were underway, students and their teacher were relocated to an open classroom, Templeton said in her letter.

Parents had been notified of the movement, Templeton said.

“Since September 25, the classroom has been used without any air quality issue,” Templeton wrote. “Humidity has been tested on multiple occasions and is well below levels of which fungi grow.

“However, due to allegations made, our district took the additional step of having air quality testing performed at our building,” according to the letter.

“The findings were that the air quality in the classroom is the same or better than outside air quality, and that all air quality tested was within a normal range,” Templeton said.

Work Orders And Cost

Templeton had sent a letter on Sept. 17 to the parents of students in the affected classroom (Room 605) regarding the move to Room 607, according to documents Jimenez, director of Communications, gave to me upon my request.

Classroom Floor And Ceiling 9/21/2018

The Sept 17 letter did not mention the problem, stating only that “Maintenance is working on repairs” to the classroom.

The School System issued a work order on Sept. 17 to FireStar, a decontamination specialist from Norcross, for work on the school.

FireStar billed the School System $6,620 for work from Sept. 13 to Sept. 26.

Jimenez provided photos dated from Sept. 21 to Sept. 24 documenting working done on the project, including the one at the left that showing the removed ceiling tiles and flooring.


The video below is of the entire Oct. 15, 2018, meeting of the Board of Education.

Odom asked if anyone had signed up to speak at the meeting at 18:15 in the video and then read Board policy regarding speakers.

Herndon began speaking at 19:23.

OCO: BOE 10 15 18 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

If there is no mold present an environmental specialist or remediation specialist can determine with testing and a report. Problem solved.

Not responding to concerned parent is a problem.

Becky Moore said...

Absolutely nothing in me understands why citizens are not responded to by members of the school board. This sounds like a very cold policy to me. We are a community. There should be complete transparency verbally and in writing. Government is supposed to be "for the people" and this does not sound like it can be the case. The very simple and logical response would be to release the mold mitigation report to ease the minds of parents. This is the ethical response. I hope that we see more open communication after the election. Addressing mold concerns is a Public Health and Safety issue.