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Officials - Health conditions improve in schools

June 10, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Schools in Jefferson County have made great progress in improving health conditions in their facilities compared to three years ago, Jefferson County Health Department officials said.

For two years in a row, health department inspections at Jefferson High School uncovered a list of problems including lack of soap, paper towels and toilet paper in student bathrooms, and cigarette smoke in bathrooms that was "thick as fog."

One of the inspections at the high school revealed an ant infestation throughout the school, termite activity, water-damaged ceiling tiles, dirty air vents and rodent activity in a teachers lounge, health department officials said.

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Students also were dismantling soap dispensers at the high school and urinating in them, health department officials said.

"Environmental conditions there were so bad that our Board of Health seriously considered action to close the school," said James Hecker, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Health.

Since then, school officials have spent considerable money and effort to improve environmental health conditions in schools, Hecker said.

The addition of John Norman as director of facilities management for the school system and the appointment of Susan Wall as principal at Jefferson High School were factors in the improvements, Hecker said.

At the high school, each deficiency has been addressed, including a "severe" student smoking problem, Hecker said. Structural and equipment improvements at Jefferson have made the school "highly acceptable," Hecker said.

But there is much to be done in the school system, including fixing a serious problem with a sewage line at one school and a humidity problem at another school, Hecker said.

The sewage line problem is at South Jefferson Elementary School, where a design flaw led to a sewer line being installed that was too small for the school, Superintendent R. Steven Nichols said Tuesday.

The humidity problem is at C.W. Shipley Elementary School, which has an air conditioning system that is too large for the building.

The school gets very cold, causing a humidity problem that causes discolored carpet and other problems, Nichols said.

The problems at South Jefferson and C.W. Shipley will be corrected this summer, Nichols said.

Hecker said the new ninth-grade center beside Jefferson High School also has experienced problems that are "typical of a first year."

Floors at the school were dirty in some areas and it did not appear cleaning operations were organized, Hecker said.

Three custodians were working at the school, which did not appear to be enough, Hecker said. School officials since have added another custodian, Hecker said.

Health Department officials inspect schools twice a year.

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