New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | December 18, 2018

Alleged mold outbreak at Charles City schools raise concerns from parents

By Andre Jones | September 18, 2018 10:25 pm

Parents are asking answers from Charles City’s School Board regarding hazardous conditions inside of the high school.

Several parents spoke during Tuesday night’s citizen comment period at the school board’s monthly meeting about alleged mold on the ceiling of Charles City High School’s cafeteria.

On Monday, pictures surfaced on social media in what was described to be black mold on several of the ceiling tiles inside of the high school cafeteria. Some students told parents that they ate in the commons area due to the condition. Monday afternoon, a representative of Charles City Public Schools sent a robo-call to parents that the issue would be addressed immediately.

During his superintendent’s report, David Gaston provided an update of the situation concerning the hazardous conditions.

“When Charles City schools closed due to the impending weather of Hurricane Florence, we had maintenance and custodial staff check the schools,” he said. “With the humidity and the tropical air, the staff found condensation Saturday in the gymnasium and that was the only issue.

“Unfortunately, sometime between Sunday night and Monday night condensation appeared on walls and tiles on the ceiling of the cafeteria,” Gaston continued. “We made that discovery around 7:15 a.m. that morning.”

The superintendent continued, pointing to the history and construction of the 25-year old facility. Gaston pointed that the cathedral ceiling only provided limited space between the outer roofing and the tiles. In turn, condensation built up in this small area and dripped onto the ceiling tiles.

Gaston continued, saying that while the substance couldn’t be classified as mold until testing can be conducted, the schools are taking precautionary steps with students and staff.

“We moved tables to the commons area and will have students eat there for the remainder of the week,” he said. “The tiles have been removed and replaced and fans are currently in there.

“A mold-testing company will be coming in at the end of the week, as well as the health department to conduct a courtesy inspection,” Gaston added. “We have had unusual weather conditions this year and we hope to have our HVAC systems replaced and operational within the next couple of weeks.”

Despite Gaston’s update, parents took to the microphone during the public comment period with many saying that the issue didn’t happen overnight.

“Replacing the tiles and using bleach isn’t going to clean it and get rid of it,” commented Jessica Hios, who holds a position in a professional company related to getting rid of mold. “You have to clean the grips, replace the tiles, mop, disinfect tables with antibacterial materials, and a lot of other things.

“Having kids in and out of the cafeteria is dangerous to their health,” she continued. “I think the school let this drop.”

“I have two sons in the system and there were mold issues before school started,” commented Eric Adkins. “I have personally been interacting with you [Gaston] about the issues in the elementary school.

“I appreciate the tests you are planning to do, but what is going to be done about the mold issues at the elementary school?” he concluded.

Ka’Sheena King said that the school system must do a better job when it comes to issues that affect the kids.

“I mentioned the issue of mold at last month’s meeting, but once again we are back this month,” she said. “There are plenty of pictures on social media showing mold on the ceiling as students eat in the cafeteria.

“I have a very big concern with the recent diagnosis of my child,” King continued, saying how environmental conditions can have an affect on them. “I know the schools were built in 1993. But now, you are going to have new and concerned parents come to these meetings every month to see what the school board is doing about these issues.”

Gaston acknowledged the concerns of parents and plans to provide updates after the visits and inspections are conducted of the facility.