The DeKalb County School System is set to spend an estimated $200,000 to repair a portion of the roof at Miller Grove Middle School that has become a health hazard, system spokesman Walter Woods said.
Substantial water damage caused by leaks in the roof were found in some of the classrooms, and photos obtained by The Champion show missing ceiling and floor tiles, and stains on the ceiling, walls and floor.
“There is sufficient mold to warrant the replacement of the roof,” Woods said. He said the classrooms affected also will be cleaned and repaired, which is part of the $200,000 expense. The work will take 12 weeks to complete, Woods said.
Because of the nature and expense of the repair, a vote was not needed to approve the money, Woods said. He said bids went out to three pre-approved bidders this week and work was expected to begin next week.
A teacher at the school, who asked not to be named, said she recently spent several days in an area hospital with a bacterial infection caused by the mold.
“I was hospitalized due to the conditions at the school,” the teacher said. “I have asthma anyway and the mold and dust triggered asthma attacks. When I came back to school I was informed [I needed] to wear a mask in the building, especially in the areas that were affected.”
Parents who spoke to The Champion said the leaking roof and plumbing problems have been issues since last year.
Jacqueline Riley, secretary for the Miller Grove Middle School PTA, said she sent a letter to the school system on Sept. 30 detailing some of the problems caused by faulty plumbing and leaks in the roof. Riley said a group came and toured the school Nov. 9 of last year but that nothing has been done.
“Don’t assume that we parents don’t care,” Riley said. “We do care about what’s going on in the schools and the education of our children. There’s been a high level of tolerance in the south DeKalb area and [the school system] has gotten in the habit of dumping on us. We’re not going to tolerate it when our children are at risk.”
Riley said she has seen water that is dark brown or black leaking from the roof.
“They keep coming and looking, meanwhile our children are still sitting in that mess,” she said.
Audrey Brisard, who has a daughter in eighth grade at the school, wrote in an e-mail to The Champion that she observed several things that appeared unsanitary when she visited the school Feb. 17.
“Firstly, there were several places where the ceiling tiles were missing, resulting in a large opening in the ceiling from which liquid was emitting, leaking and landing on the floor below,” Brisard wrote. “I also saw barricades which had been erected to divert traffic from those areas. There were water fountains which had accumulated a brown liquid, which certainly indicated that these units were unusable.
“There were classrooms which had the same issues, missing tiles … discolored tiles, missing floor tiles and obvious moisture exposure along the ceiling and walls,” she continued. “Finally, there were also quite noticeable foul odors emitting from the restrooms into the hallways, and an equally offensive smell of mold and dampness in the classrooms.”
Vickie Elisa, communications director for the DeKalb County Board of Health, said her agency was notified of problems at the school on Feb. 2 and environmental inspectors went to the school the next day.
The health department does not have the proper equipment to identify different types of mold, Elisa said.
“Ceiling tiles were damaged and there appeared to be some type of leakage,” Elisa said, summarizing a report made by the agency’s environmental inspectors. “Water feeds mold. There seemed to be an excess of water and it was recommended to seal off any access to water to prevent further intrusion of water.”
It also was recommended that the water damaged areas be cleaned up, Elisa said.
Elisa said someone from the middle school called the health department on Feb. 10 and said, “that the school was looking into getting repairs done and putting together an action plan for repairs.”
For Riley, however, the school system’s actions come too late. She also is concerned about the heating and air conditioning system at the school as well as the plumbing. She said her son told her last year that his class had to be moved because of the strong odor coming from the bathroom.
“Repairs need to go beyond the roof,” Riley said. “The HVAC system needs to be replaced because the air is thick and ventilation is poor. They have severe plumbing issues—the bathrooms flood and most of the water fountains don’t even work. I know they’ve closed off the bathrooms before.”