Would you want your child inside a damp building filled with mold? One parents says that is happening to the baseball team at Smithfield Selma High School. Now parents are demanding immediate action from the Johnston County School Board and are making their concerns public.
Two weeks ago, Mark Lee, whose son is a member of the varsity baseball team, said water was so deep in the Field House at SSS High, his son had to change clothes while standing inside his locker. Lee, with the permission of the baseball coach, went to investigate. Lee says he found water dripping from the ceiling in numerous locations and “mold on every wall, floor to ceiling, with pieces of molding growing out of cement joints. They looked like mushrooms.”
Lee said he immediately notified other parents and members of the Johnston County School Board. “Seeing this in person is much worse than anyone can image,” Lee told JoCoReport.com. “It is not acceptable for anyone to go inside, especially those with asthma problems or respiratory issues.”
Over the weekend, school maintenance workers painted several walls, but Lee says the mold growth and leaking roof remain.
One point of contention is what to do with the building. Lee says the mold has gotten into the ceiling and inside the center block walls. Unlike a wooden structure where you could remove sheetrock, the center block walls can’t be removed, he contends. Lee says the building needs to be torn down.
Johnston County Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Peedin Jones says quotes are currently being solicited for a new roof, electrical and plumbing. The school system will then move forward with renovations.
Lee says the school system has it wrong. “There is no way to remove mold without removing the walls,” Lee told JoCoReport.com
“I am frustrated the school system plans to Band-Aid a building that needs to be demolished. I’m ok if they put four plastic outhouses in its place, so they kids won’t have to go in it and the parents won’t have an eyesore,” Lee said.
Lee also said the school system was being unfair to Smithfield Selma High. “They spend money in other parts of the county. The left SSS High School out of it. It’s unfair to Smithfield. Go to Cleveland, Archer Lodge, West Johnston High, Clayton High, South Johnston, Corinth Holders. Everybody that goes there has a decent place to use the bathroom and change clothes. The people in those communities are proud of what they have. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed and ashamed.”
Another safety issue is an electric hot water heater that was installed in a shower inside the Field House. Lee said the shower hasn’t been used in 10 years but is just as damp as if someone had just taken a shower. He is fearful the moisture problems could cause a student serious harm. “Even the dampness could electrocute a kid. It is a hazard. It is a danger,” he said.
This week, the school system blocked off access to the building and placed a sign on the door saying the Field House was closed for renovations. The temporary arrangements are also drawing criticism from Lee and other parents.
Lee says the temporary building is 12 feet by 24 feet in size, has no chairs, and previously houses track and field poles for high jumpers.
In response to the health and safety issues, the Smithfield Town Council addressed the problem this week. The council authorized Mayor Andy Moore to write a letter to the Board of Education demanding immediate steps be taken to correct the problems.
Lee said school board members have listened to parents concerns but says school leaders are wrong when they think the Field House can be saved. “There has been action but the action has not been acceptable. They want to Band-Aid a problem that has been here a long time. It’s just a mess. The building needs to be torn down. They will spend more money trying to renovate than build a new one.”
Until the issue is addressed, students are having to go elsewhere to use the restrooms. And that is another problem.
Lee says baseball players are forced to walk 1,000 feet in each direction to a bathroom at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. Peedin-Jones, the spokesperson for Johnston County Schools, said, “Student athletes are not expected to go off campus to utilize restrooms. The baseball field is located within close proximity to the gymnasium as well as in close proximity to the outside restrooms. The outside restrooms have been recently painted and the floors refinished.”
Peedin-Jones confirmed the Field House has been tested for mold and officials are awaiting the results.