Health Department Presence Spurs Cleanup At Clear Lake
By: Patrick Reynolds, Citizen Staff
Environmental workers from the county health department last week were taking samples from Clear Lake High School’s athletic department, which some concerned parents say is a "breeding ground for infections and disease."
As the department collected the samples, trucks from the Clear Creek school district were in the parking lot and sources said a major cleanup of the athletic facilities was under way.
The health department results were not available at press time, but one official said that mold samples had been taken from the school and were being analyzed.
"We are investigating the possibility of communicable disease at the school because of a letter written to us by a concerned parent," said Kathy Barton, a spokesperson for the Harris County Health Department.
"We haven’t been able to get any information back yet (on the samples)," she said Wednesday. "We also haven’t had much success in contacting the parents. But we respond to any complaint that comes into us."
The letter came from attorney Joe Gutheinz, who sent out several such letters to area health agencies, including the City of Houston’s Air Control Department and the Neighborhood Protection Department.
Gutheinz also hinted that legal action could be brought against the district if the safety issues were not addressed.
"I feel that the health department showed up at the school in direct relation to the letter I sent them," Gutheinz said.
"Now, the school board has the chance to do the right thing and comply with the health department. That’s what we’re hoping they will do."
Gutheinz’s son also plays football at Clear Lake High. Fourteen Falcon football players came down with staph infections and conjunctivitis of the eye recently.
"The one common denominator among these 14 children is that they were all involved in sports at Clear Lake High School, and most of them are names I recognize as being associated with the Clear Lake football team," Gutheinz said.
In the last two months, the issue came up several times at board meetings Reports of spiders, rats, standing water in showers and broken toilets were also addressed by the board.
At the June meeting, several parents of students told the board about the alleged conditions inside the school’s athletic locker rooms.
"It’s easy to see how bacteria flourishes. Shower heads are not working and there’s four inches of standing water in spots," one parent said.
As of last week, the district had implemented several solutions in the athletic department, including: rodent traps, better pest control spraying, cleaned shower drains and lockers, installed door sweeps to prevent rodents from entering and replaced a damaged door and removed sofas.
Sources also said district workers were tearing up old carpet at the school on Tuesday when the health department showed up. "It’s kind of a shame the school district waited to do something until there was the threat of the health department," said another parent of a football player.
"But at least we got something done."
Sources also said that the health department visited Clear Creek High School last week.
There, conditions are "just as bad, if not worse" than Clear Lake High, school board trustee Glen Brown said at the June meeting.
Board president Paula Tomasi agreed, saying that the CCISD maintenance department is working to combat the problems.