Parents irked over ‘chronic’ mold issues at Prince George County elementary school

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PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Parents and school officials in Prince George County shared complaints Wednesday of “chronic” mold issues at William A. Walton Elementary School.

A plan to build a new school is in the works but parents and teachers told 8News they’re done being patient. Some families even said they are considering moving or enrolling their children in a private school because of the situation.

The superintendent for Prince George County schools, Dr. Lisa Pennycuff, told 8News there are mold spores in more than 20 percent of the school’s classrooms. She said the district has done testing, cleaned and moved students away from the classrooms with mold.

“I feel confident that when a difficulty arises, we’re gonna find it quickly,” Pennycuff told 8News Wednesday. “We’re gonna remediate the problem and have the room retested before the children enter.”​

Daryl Woodlief’s wife is a teacher at Walton and his daughter attends school there. He told 8News that he believes the school has been making them sick for years.

“I’m sick and tired of my wife and child being sick and tired,” Woodlief said. “She has a sinus infection like she’ll get over one and then a couple weeks later she’ll get another one.”

“She just sits there and she’s like ‘it’s killing me, it hurts,’ and it’s because she’s in a mold infested room,” Woodlief continued. “They just tested this room and it tested positive.”​

On Monday, the school district announced it will buy portable classrooms, or trailers, for students in classrooms that aren’t safe. The district calls them “learning cottages.”

“This is a significant issue for us,” Pennycuff said. “We are taking it extremely seriously.”​

Superintendent Pennycuff says carbon dioxide levels have spiked in some classrooms as well. She explained that each classroom will get a monitor for teachers to keep an eye on the levels.

“We have conveyed to the board of supervisors that we need to ensure the safety of our children,” Pennycuff said.

In 2017, it was recommended that Walton, the county’s oldest school, be replaced. Since then, Pennycuff says a back-and-forth between the school district and the Prince George County Board of Supervisors on where to put the school and how to pay for it has stalled the project.

“Schools cost a lot of money. There are many priorities for a county when they’re weighing what needs to happen,” superintendent Pennycuff told 8News. “I think that all of us believe our needs are at the top.”​

Alan Carmichael, the District 1 Supervisor, declined an on-camera interview on Wednesday but agrees that finding enough funding has been an issue. He told 8News that the county has already raised taxes once and it’s been tough finding a plot of land within budget that the board of supervisors and district can agree upon.

“The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 in favor of implementing a 5 cent tax rate and approving a new elementary school to replace Walton. The School Board voted not to accept the new elementary school on a 3-2 vote of the School Board Members.” — Alan Carmichael

The two groups plan to meet in less than a week to find a resolution.

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