Athens, Tenessee Valley – The Athens City Board of Education should shut down Brookhill Elementary if children and faculty continue to get sick, an Athens city councilman told the board on Monday. “The building is not worth one of your children’s health,” Councilman Harold Wales said during the joint board/council meeting. “I encourage you to address this. If it means closing the damn thing, close it.”
During a February board meeting, parents said they believe there still is a mold problem at the school. In the past five years, the board has spent $1 million to clean the mold and make renovations to prevent mold from recurring.
An August study said the HVAC system is not retaining water and is operating as it should and the humidity levels were acceptable. The spore count dropped from 15,000 spores per cubic feet of air to a spore count of 295 per cubit feet of air.
Councilman Johnny Crutcher said there are “sick, sick people” at the school. “I saw one kid whose eyes looked like he had been beat up with a hammer,” Crutcher said. “I saw kids with rashes.”
Principal Janet Poole has asked the board for a transfer because her doctor said she will continue to get sick at the school. She had surgery for polyps on her vocal cords and her right cord is paralyzed. Poole, who talks in a raspy voice, has been taking sick leave. She can enter the school only when wearing a biohazard type mask.
The board has not taken action on Poole’s transfer request. Attorney Shane Black, who represents the board and city, said recent testing done on three spots on the walls showed no mold problems. Poole said John Sikes with The University of Alabama also took air samples in three areas. Superintendent Orman Bridges Jr. said those results will be ready today or Wednesday.
Board member Mack Smith said that if the board can get another environmental company to test the school and say there still is a problem that “maybe we can get it condemned and get help financially from the state. We need our congressman to help us out,” he said. “I don’t want to spend any money on cleanup. Obviously we’ve got a problem that somebody’s missing.”
Parent Cary Boyd showed the group photos of his fourth-grade son. The skin around his left eye is red and irritated. Boyd said a doctor diagnosed it as a type of fungus, the same kind a July 2004 report stated was detected in the school.
“He’s on two anti-fungal medicines and an antibiotic,” Boyd said. “If I’d done this to my son, I’d be in jail.”