RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A hot topic at Monday night’s board meeting was the alleged mold that has been plaguing several Richmond Public Schools.
Several concerned parents and teachers voiced their opinions on the matter while board members had a chance to hear the results of the recent testing of one of the schools.
Officials announced the results of mold tests that were done at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School, in addition to other schools. It’s a school, amongst others, where many parents and teachers have previously complained has a mold infestation at previous board meetings.
At Monday’s meeting, Boushall Middle School teacher Chloe Tremper spoke out about some of the issues she’s seen during the public comment period.
“I had to wipe mold off microscopes the other week that were stored in the moldy prep room,” Tremper said.
Richmond school leaders got an update on the testing that was done at Boushall Middle at Monday’s board meeting by Chief Communications Officer Dana Fox.
Part of this report showed no mold in the air space, but mold growth on ceiling tiles in places like the registrar’s office and a non-food storage room in the kitchen.
According to the report, those spots of mold have since been removed. However, teachers like Tremper raised concerns about the report and the way it was done.
“We were told the entire building would be tested. However, only 18 rooms were tested, almost all of which are on the outer edge of the building,” Tremper said. “The major mold issues I personally witnessed during teacher professional development week and still are in the interior rooms.”
Fox explained the reason why this happened on behalf of the company that tested the school.
“What they do is a visual inspection of every room. So, they said that they walked every single room for visual inspection, any rooms that showed mold spores that were visible, those are the rooms that they tested. And then they tested each floor, sort of random samplings and comprise those,” Fox said.
Fox added that they’re still waiting on test results for other schools, including Clark Springs Elementary. She said they are also currently scheduling tests at J.H. Blackwell Preschool, Maymont Preschool, Summer Hill Preschool, Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary School and Woodville Elementary School within the next two weeks.
She added that mold tests for a full building cost about $5,400 dollars for elementary schools and about $8,600 for middle and high schools. Further, testing the whole district could cost about $325,000 dollars.
Despite the cost, board members like Kenya Gibson still pushed for something to be done immediately.
“It sounds like we’re saying we found some mold [but] I don’t hear any sense of urgency about what we found. And, you know, I mean, do we recognize that this is a big issue?” Gibson said during the meeting. “Are we calling the teachers liars? Are we not believing that this is a real problem? That it’s significant, that it has urgency,”
Superintendent Jason Kamras said during the meeting they’ve been addressing every complaint they have received by testing, swapping out ceiling tiles and cleaning where necessary.
“If we want every single room of every building tested, whether that’s the standard or not so be it, we can do that. We just need to honestly grapple with the fact that that will likely cost three to $400,000. And those are funds that we won’t use for something else.” Kamras said.
“I don’t think this is a question of a lack of urgency. I don’t think it’s a question of a lack of commitment. I think it’s a reflection of the very difficult reality that our buildings need help, and our kids need help. And there simply isn’t enough help to go around,” Kamras added.
Parents and teachers have said they simply want something to be done before it’s too late.
“Staff have said they will quit over this, and I need you all to take this seriously to protect the health of our students and staff. I don’t want to have to leave a job at a place I love because it is affecting my health,” Tremper said.