Montevallo Elementary likely to reopen Jan. 3

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

Montevallo Elementary School likely will open to students on Jan. 3, Superintendent Randy Fuller said during a Dec. 20 Shelby County Board of Education meeting.

MES was closed Dec. 12 after trace amounts of black mold were found in three areas of the school. Black mold was first found in a fifth grade classroom in September, and the school system hired ServPro to clean the area.

Fuller said MES is being renovated and cleaned again during winter break.

“We’re in the process of doing some renovation efforts that were planned for later on in the year, but we’re doing some of these during Christmas,” he said.

Fuller listed more than a dozen action items the school system was undertaking at MES, including overall cleaning, replacing or adding tile floor in several areas of the school, painting, renovating the fifth grade wing and restrooms, caulking needed interior and exterior areas and installing underground piping for downspout drainage for the south side of the kindergarten wing.

During the public comments session, MES Parent-Teacher Organization President Michele Gallagher said the renovation efforts are a “patch-up solution.” She said MES is “unsafe and unfit” for students and teachers because of the presence of mold and asbestos.

Gallagher said Fuller was first made aware of the mold problem five years ago and told a drainage system should be placed around the entire schools. Fuller acknowledged MES has had issues with mold in the past because of drainage problems.

“In every situation of drainage, we have had consultants come into our organization to give us guided advice on what to do,” he said.

Gallagher said the PTO, which has spoken out numerous times this year since the first incident of mold was reported in September, was concerned about snakes that have entered the building.

“Snakes now roam the school at their will,” she said. “We don’t know whether they are poisonous or not. It’s enough to us that there just snakes attracted to the school by the … moisture in the school.”

In September, former MES Principal Dr. Annie McClain said she saw four snakes over a seven-year period at the school.

Gallagher also expressed concern about asbestos in the school.

Asbestos is a “mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil,” according to the website for the Environmental Protection Agency. The website said most uses of asbestos are not banned, and asbestos can be found in attic and wall insulation, vinyl floor tiles, roofing, siding shingles, heat-resistant fabrics, automobile clutches and brakes. Schools are required to meet certain standards for asbestos-containing materials.

Deputy Superintendent Tom Ferguson said in late November MES does contain asbestos, but it meets federal regulations.

Gallagher claimed several MES teachers are afraid to enter the school, and they have had fertility problems, miscarriages and cancer, which she said was linked to the asbestos.

The EPA’s website said “asbestos-related issues can be difficult to identify,” but exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease.

Several MES parents said their children have suffered respiratory problems while attending the school, according to previous reports.

Gallagher asked the school not to allow MES students return to the school in January.

“Send them to another school until the asbestos problem can be solved or until another school can be built,” she said.

Fuller said additional testing will be done to MES over the holidays.

“We expect everything … to open up Jan. 3 for our students,” he said.

SCBOE President Aubrey Miller said the board is following the situation closely.

“These comments will be taken into the record and I’m sure we’ll have further discussions to come as this process develops,” he said.