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County Health Department’s repeated (annual) warnings to school system of water damage from leaks seemingly ignored

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Others with highest frequency reports from health department (at least 5 of past 6 years) : Eastlawn and Haw River Elementary; Graham Middle; also Eastern and Graham High Schools

Several Alamance-Burlington schools where mold contamination has been reported – including the three latest schools where mold has been reported, Broadview Middle as well as Cummings and Williams high schools – have been repeatedly cited for violations related to water damage by inspectors within the county’s environmental health division during annual site visits to the schools (see related story, this edition).

Reports from annual site visits conducted by inspectors with the county’s environmental health division revealed ongoing problems with damaged ceiling tiles, some of which inspectors attributed to roof leaks and leaks in air conditioning pipes, based on annual reports that are on file with the county.

State law requires each county’s environmental health division to inspect all public and private school buildings at least once a year to evaluate the cleanliness of floors, walls, and ceilings, as well as the adequacy of lighting and ventilation, among other sanitation-related aspects. These inspections are separate from the sanitation inspections and grades issued for foodservice operations, including school cafeterias.

Written reports from the annual building inspections of public school buildings are required to be filed with the State Board of Education, while reports from the inspections of private schools are required to be filed with the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Division of Non-Public Education, under the same state law.

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Andrews Elementary
Reports issued following the environmental health division’s routine annual inspections at Andrews Elementary – the first school where mold contamination was discovered – for each year between June 2019 and June 2021, noted during each inspection that “ceiling tiles have staining showing that roof leaks are or were present.” The environmental health inspectors also advised in June 2020 and in June 2021 to “repair any roof or [A/C] pipe leaks and once fixed replace ceiling tiles”.

The environmental health division’s inspectors also listed issues with buildup on HVAC vents and wall return vents during their annual site visits to Andrews in June 2021 and June 2022, according to copies of the reports that are on file with the county.

The environmental health division’s inspectors uncovered similar concerns at Newlin, the second ABSS school where mold contamination has been confirmed, during site visits each year between June 2020 and June 2023.

 

Newlin Elementary
On June 24, 2020, Newlin was cited for numerous violations; ABSS was advised to repair or replace damaged ceiling tiles in the media center, a custodial closet on the second floor, and in a restroom. Inspectors advised, “If roof leaks are present, repair roof where necessary,” the annual report stated.

In June 2021, inspectors advised the school system to “repair or replace damaged ceiling tiles including but not limited to” in the downstairs library, the upstairs media center, and two classrooms,” and to repair the roof, where necessary, according to the report issued by Alamance County’s environmental health division.

Reports issued following site visits to Newlin by the county’s environmental health inspectors continued to note the same problems in June 2022 and June 2023. The report issued June 22, 2022 stated, “Repair or replace damaged ceiling tiles including but not limited to” in the downstairs library, the upstairs media center, and two classrooms,” and to repair the roof, where necessary, according to the county’s environmental health division.

On June 27, 2023, an annual site visit to Newlin by the county’s environmental health inspectors revealed none of the earlier violations appeared to have been fixed. The report issued in June stated, “Repair or replace water damaged ceiling tiles where necessary. Observed water damaged ceiling tiles in room[s] including but not limited to: media center, room 206 and 217…If roof leaks are present, repair roof where necessary.”

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Broadview & Cummings
Similar violations were cited during annual inspections at Broadview and Cummings.
On June 19, 2023, the inspection at Broadview revealed “ceiling tiles need replacing throughout the facility that show wear and tear from leaks,” according to a report subsequently issued by the county’s environmental health inspectors. While the school had been cited for other types of violations between 2020 and 2022, none of those annual reports made note of any problems related to moisture and/or water damage to ceiling tiles.

The middle school had last been cited for damaged ceiling tiles in 2019, according to a report from a site visit conducted on June 18 of that year.

Cummings was also issued violations for water-damaged ceiling tiles on June 20, 2023; June 24, 2021; June 30, 2021; and September 10, 2019.

The report issued following a site visit to Cummings in September 2019 noted the need to replace missing tiles in a restroom; need to “repair damaged ceiling tiles in the unisex bathroom” on the first floor in the main classroom building; wall and ceiling damage on the third floor; and extensive damage throughout the arts wing.

The report issued by the county’s environmental health department in June of this year advised, “Replace ceiling tiles that have had previous leaks and staining – new roof was put on the building.” The school was also issued a violation for related to lighting and ventilation, with the county’s inspectors noting on the report issued June 20, “Clean ventilation throughout all school areas.”

 

Williams High School
At Williams High School, the county’s environmental health inspectors documented “damaged ceiling tiles in many of the restrooms,” along with water-damaged ceiling tiles in the library and four classrooms on January 26 of this year. The report issued following that site visit cited violations for “water leaks inside and outside of [a] classroom,” as well as in hallways, the gym ceiling, a stairwell, and another room on the second floor of Williams.

Environmental health specialists issued violations for the same problems related to water damage and apparent leaks at Williams High School on June 14, 2021; June 15, 2020; April 3, 2019; and May 24, 2018, according to annual reports on file with the county. (No inspection appeared to have been conducted in 2022, based on the annual reports.)

“Found water damaged ceiling tiles on the gym balcony, a damaged ceiling in classroom…and a hole in the wall in the learning lab room of the first floor,” the report from the inspection on June 14, 2021 stated. “Please have all areas repaired, and check all rooms [for] water damaged ceiling tiles.”

The same problems had been documented during inspections conducted at Williams during each of the three previous years.

The report from the inspection in May 2018 stated, “Ensure water leaks are quickly addressed and water damage is repaired. Observed peeling paint in [third floor hallway]; deteriorating ceiling in staff restroom on [third] floor; peeling paint/plaster/damaged walls throughout stairwell. Rusting and peeling paint around windows in stairwell. Water damage and peeling paint in ceilings in stairwell. Observed several holes in ceiling including in front of elevator. Repair/ replace ceiling tiles where necessary.”

While mold is naturally present in the environment, factors such as moisture, humidity, and lack of sunlight can contribute to the growth of mold spores that can be harmful to some individuals, particularly those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health conditions, according to the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Neither ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler nor school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves had responded to an inquiry from The Alamance News by press time.

[See complete list summarized below.]

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