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Starnes on Volunteer: 'There is no mold that I'm aware of'

Jeff Bobo • Dec 6, 2017 at 8:45 PM

CHURCH HILL — For the past couple of weeks, Volunteer High School students and their parents have been distributing photos showing needed repairs at the facility, some of which raised concerns about the possibility of a black mold problem.

Director of Schools Steve Starnes told the Times-News that the school was inspected for mold last week.

Although there are some stains caused by previous leaks, Starnes told the Times-News Tuesday, “There is no mold that I’m aware of.”

Starnes noted that there are some cosmetic issues that have been brought to the attention of administrators and the maintenance department, and they will be addressed.

Five photos in particular were forwarded to the Times-News depicting black stains on two ceilings and one wall, as well as missing and damaged ceiling tiles and a broken urinal.

Starnes offered an explanation for each of the photos. Each photo can also be viewed in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.

1. Stained corner of walls and ceiling.

“You can see part of a flag. To give you some reference, that flag is the size of a sheet of 8.5 by 11 inch notebook paper. This is from a previous leak that has been repaired. It was inspected last week and it is dry. Obviously when something has been wet at one point or another, it’s going to have some stain to it. There is some deterioration of the wood (trim) and we’re going to address that very shortly.”

2. Stained ceiling in the vocational building.

“You can see where light fixtures have previously been installed on the ceiling. During the T-8 lighting upgrade, we removed several T-12 fixtures because the T-8s were brighter and didn’t need as many fixtures. Since that was in the shop area, there’s going to be stuff that accumulates up there where the lights were. You can see on the wall there’s a change in the paint color. We had to do a ‘Life Safety Project.’ There had been some new additions in the Vocational Building, and the fire marshal came in three or four years ago and told us we would have to do some things. The scope of that work didn’t involve this hallway, but that’s just stains on a concrete ceiling. It’s dry. It’s dirt.”

3. Hole in a ceiling tile in the gym lobby.

“A kid threw a gym bag or something to that effect through the tile and it was broken. Obviously we can replace a ceiling tile. Not that big a deal.”

4. Missing ceiling tiles in the Little Theater.

“That’s on a catwalk where the stage lighting projects through. Obviously if we had ceiling tiles, the light wouldn’t go through, and if we did have tiles up there it would be a heat issue, so those are absent on purpose to let the light shine through onto the stage.”

5. Broken urinal in the 200 (mainly math and science classrooms) wing.

“That’s a broken pipe. We sent a camera down it and discovered a broken pipe. Those urinals are poured into the floor. We would have to saw that and jackhammer the floor up to gain access to the pipes. We felt it was better, at the time, to take the one urinal out of commission rather than shut down the entire bathroom in that one wing.”

These facilities issues at Volunteer became a heated topic of discussion on social media after it became widely known recently that Cherokee High School was in the process of receiving a $437,000 elevator in its gymnasium to bring that school into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Volunteer junior Evan Mays told the County Commission last week he felt $437,000 was too much to spend on an elevator at Cherokee when his school building has so many issues that need to be addressed as well.

“Sometimes we have to prioritize things and don’t get to them as quickly as we’d like,” Starnes said. “But there’s a logical explanation for each of these pictures. While they may look as a detriment, I’m sure if you walk through just about any ceiling in a shop you’re going to see some discoloration — especially in a metal shop or welding shop. You’re going to have grinding and dust and stuff that’s going to accumulate over time. It’s not an issue.”

Starnes added, “I don’t know (if Volunteer has any current leaks), but we have a leak from time to time everywhere. As soon as we can, we address them. ... We are continually working on leaks and trying to address those a quickly as possible. You may go up there thinking you know where a leak is at, and make a repair, but you don’t know if it’s fixed or not until the next rain. It’s a continual process that we’re working on.”               

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