CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Riverside High School parent filed a complaint with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department last week, claiming that black mold growing in the building is causing students respiratory problems.A roof leak near the building's blue stairwell has damaged ceiling tiles, and mold is visible, according to a health evaluation report. Health officials consider the conditions a violation of indoor air regulations.Kanawha County school officials are testing a sample of the mold to determine what type it is. They expect the results within 10 days. Black mold, a fungal growth commonly caused by water-damaged building materials, can cause those exposed to experience trouble breathing, chronic coughing, fatigue, headaches, fever, rashes and coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anita Ray, Kanawha-Charleston's director of environmental health, said the mold was caught in time to prevent any serious health problems."The mold was way out of reach of anyone, and is not in a location where students spend a lot of time. I doubt seriously it was enough to cause health problems at this stage," she said. "It wasn't significant enough to take any real action."The parent who filed the complaint said she has had to hospitalize her child for respiratory problems more than once since school started and worried that mold may be to blame, Ray said.Kanawha County Schools maintenance superintendent Terry Hollandsworth cited similar problems in the school's band room due to a broken air conditioning unit. The department officials are currently waiting for parts to arrive to repair that problem."With mold, sensitivity is the issue. A student could walk into a room covered in mold and be fine, and another student could become deathly ill. Mold is everywhere, but some people can't handle even a minimal amount," Hollandsworth said.Riverside Principal Valery Harper said though a very small area is affected, the issue is being taken seriously."The big thing at RHS is that we don't have the tools for people in our building to fix it. It's up to the maintenance department. We put in a request as soon as possible, and we do daily walks through the whole building and outside," she said. "I wish I could fix it myself, but I can't."Riverside parents took to the social networking site Facebook to discuss their concerns."I'm wondering if this is why I am in the emergency room with my son. Mold can cause asthmatic problems," one parent posted.A student posted and said he had been sent home from school because of a cough that began with the start of the school year, and questioned whether the building conditions were to blame.Another parent said the RHS band uniforms have been ruined because of mold, and another said some classroom chairs "are covered in mold."
Sean Carver, the sanitarian who performed the evaluation, confirmed in the health report that a work order has been submitted by Riverside for new ceiling tiles to replace the ones with mold.Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5100.