At the Gainesville City Schools board meeting Monday night, angry parents demanded to know why their children were being exposed to hazardous fumes.
Scarlet Pendarvis spoke as a representative of parents at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy to call the board’s attention to what they feel are health hazards associated with tar and other products used in roofing the school.
She said many students complained of irritation in the eyes, nose and throat, some severe enough to cause asthma attacks.
Pendarvis said she did not believe the school officials or the parents were properly notified of the details of the project.
“The actual health hazards were not conveyed to the parents and teachers, and that’s a problem,” Pendarvis said. “It just came home in a backpack that this project would begin.”
Pendarvis asked that all future construction projects go before school governance councils for review, something board members agreed was a reasonable request.
Other parents, like Paul Lozelle, asked the council why they couldn’t suspend all construction activity until after the last day of school Friday.
“If they could hold on two weeks until (standardized) testing was done, why couldn’t they wait another two weeks until the kids were out of school?” Lozelle asked.
Many parents were also displeased by Enota’s offer that students who were uncomfortable with the construction could elect to attend a different school for the remainder of the year, calling it disruptive for the students.
Superintendent Merrianne Dyer explained that the roofing project was started at the end of this school year in order to have it completed by the beginning of the next school year so that students did not have to start the school year at a different elementary school.
“We also have to look at, do we disrupt 700 kids at the beginning of next school year,” Chairman David Syfan said.
The school board had already asked the construction company to delay working on the roof until after school hours. Parents said that was a start, but preferred that it be stopped all together while students are at school.
“We can stop it for four days but it will cost us money,” Dyer said.
Syfan made the motion to suspend the project until after 3 p.m. Friday.
“Balancing the concerns and what we hear, my inclination is to air on the side of safety,” Syfan said.
The board approved it unanimously.
The board also agreed that there was a larger issue that must be discussed, the way the school system handles requests for proposals for construction projects.