Results are back on air quality tests conducted at Shuman Elementary School ten days ago. Savannah-Chatham District Spokesperson Kurt Hetager confirms of three rooms tested because of teacher or staff concerns - one did test positive for elevated levels of mold. "Elevated" means higher than would be found in the outdoor environment.
Hetager says that classroom was cleaned, the air conditioning system was checked to be sure it was operating properly, and old, waterstained ceiling tiles were replaced as a precaution. After those steps were taken, the air quality in that room was tested again. Elevated mold levels were still present, so the District is taking extra precautions. Hetager says carpeting in the room will be torn out and replaced with tile.
In addition, Hetager says the District is working with the Health Department to alleviate concerns. Health Department representatives are expected to walk through the school with District Officials to check for anything concerning. The type of mold found through testing is called Aspergillus Penicillium. Experts say it is one of the most commonly found molds which can be a potential allergen and can cause health problems for those with weakened immune systems. Hetager says the room where elevated levels were found is NOT a classroom, but is a room used as a work or overflow room at the a school.
The concerns about mold were first brought to light, when the husband of the school's former principal contacted News 3. He shared emails showing concerns about the problem dating back to the summer of 2012.
More than a year of complaints by teachers about possible mold problems at a Savannah elementary school -- now an outsider with knowledge of those complaints is speaking out, determined that something be done. The man who is speaking out doesn't work at the school, but has listened to his wife, the principal, struggle to resolve the issue for over a year. Now he decided -- without his wife's knowledge -- to let others know about the problem.
Lorenzo McDonald says he noticed the problem his first day at the school - helping his wife move into her office in July of last year, "When we walked in her office to put in her personal items - I looked at the air vent and I noticed that it was visible mold in the vents." With 12 years experience in real estate, McDonald says he recognized right away that there might be a problem, "It was just so alarming to me that you know - the visible mold was there and I told her - you need to get this taken care of immediately."
His wife contacted the District and over a little more than a year - forwarded on complaints and cleaning requests from teachers. He shared the trail of emails with us detailing things like mold growing on rugs, walls and tables, even an entire class having to be moved to another location to escape the mold. There were complaints of illness as well. "The teacher complaints ranging from coughing to sneezing, to you know outbreaks of allergies that teachers were not having before and then she started developing a cough," says McDonald. Those emails show the District sending out crews to clean the vents, the walls and to fix the AC - but the problems kept recurring.
Finally - just within the last couple of weeks - an official complaint was filed with the Savannah Federation of Teachers. President Theresa Watson says it's a problem in several area schools and she's contacted the District, "They assured me that they would look into it and that's a positive thing and that's a start
McDonald's wife is leaving Shuman, but he says he's worried about those who come after and felt he had to say something, "Nobody's gonna talk. My wife is - she's dedicated. She's not gonna say anything - her last day with the Board of Education is Friday. She hasn't peeped a word - she's probably gonna be upset I'm doing this interview - but what I'm concerned about - as much as she has pushed the issue and sent emails and made phone calls - once she leaves - what's gonna be done."
The School District spokesperson told me that in any instance where a mildew or mold smell is noticed, air quality samples are tested and precautionary and follow up actions are taken. He says the district is in the process of investigating the reports at Shuman and some rooms are slated for air samples to be collected by Friday. We'll let you know what they find.
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