Here’s a letter I received this week by snail mail, how I followed up on it, and what I found out. I got no other calls or similar complaints about the issue.
“On April 11th the practice gym at Kell HS was stripped. The next day the floor was sealed with a toxin-level-four substance. Students and teachers had to breathe those toxins all week. The next week the main gym floor was stripped and sealed with the same toxin substance. This environmentally contaminated environment was forced upon everyone. Over these days the whole school was affected by the poison. No arrangements were made to make students safe.
“Students were forced to sit in classrooms and breathe poison. Students with asthma, respiratory problems and other problems suffered a lot. A little English teacher, who is pregnant, asked the nurse if her unborn baby was safe. Teachers down the English hall were sick, had headaches and felt ill. One went to the emergency room. The teacher right outside the practice gym’s door is recovering from cancer and went to the nurse. There are several teachers recovering from cancer on the English hall area. Students stayed home sick. Parents were not informed.
“The sealing process needed to be done without students and teachers and the trash was just thrown out, not according to hazardous disposal standards. Cobb County is said to have saved $4,000 by doing it now.
“This is wrong. How did this happen? Talking to the school nurse, the custodian, all the students who missed school with mystery illnesses. This is a big concern in the community.”
The Cobb County School District does not allow its employees to talk to the press about anything with even the slightest hint of controversy, and I knew a call to Kell’s principal would only route me back to district spokesman Jay Dillon, so I emailed Jay a list of questions – were the floors indeed stripped? By whom? On the days noted in the letter? Were parents notified? Were classes moved?
Here is Jay’s response, emailed later the same day I asked:
“I'm not sure who sent you this email but it has certainly overstated the facts, to say the least. The school hired an outside contractor, Stevens Gymnasiums, to refinish the gym floor. The floor was sanded, then coated with polyurethane, then painted, then coated with polyurethane again. The process takes several days, and the company worked at night and on the weekend. Obviously, the polyurethane creates a smell so the gym's exhaust fans ran constantly throughout the process. For the main building near the gym, outside hallway doors were opened and fans were set up. Also, all classrooms near the gym were relocated. So, precautions were definitely taken. This is the same gym floor refinishing process we use at all schools. The smell is an inconvenience, but not a health hazard. According to Ms. Donovan, one student with asthma reported discomfort, and another student reported a headache. That's it. Just two students out of 1,688 reported any effects that could be attributed to the gym refinishing. She said she was not aware of any teachers who reported feeling ill, and certainly not any who went to the emergency room. The company placed the empty polyurethane cans in the dumpster, which is proper disposal.”
I’ve also put in a call to school board member Kathy Angelucci to see if she’s heard of any complaints at this school, which is in her district. Did anyone else out there take issue with this at Kell?