Grand Strand

St. James Elementary School parents to push HCS to address mold issues

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) - Parents of elementary school students concerned about mold in their building are preparing to demand change from the county's school district.

Kristy Roderick is one of those parents with a daughter at St. James Elementary School, which is near the Burgess community.

"I just pray that we can get this resolved," she said during a parents meeting at the South Strand Recreation Center on Wednesday evening.

Roderick's daughter has missed classes in second grade for several weeks.

"She's progressively gotten worse with what was first a sinus infection, that moved into an upper respiratory infection and now, an ear infection," Roderick said.

Roderick, like several other St. James parents, says mold in the school gave her daughter chronic sicknesses.

"I just really want what's right for these kids, for everybody's kids," she said. "I'm a nurse and it's in my heart to make sure that people's healths are considered in every environment."

Those parents, and many others, met Wednesday to ask Horry County Schools to fix the mold and prevent it from returning.

"This is not something that happened during the last hurricane and it is not an isolated incident," said Meredith Smith, a St. James parent and co-organizer of the meeting. "The problems are at least 15 years old."

Smith was disputing HCS's claim that roof leaks and mositure from Hurricane Florence caused the mold. She's in the Facebook group of St. James parents that organized the meeting and created a petition.

The petition asks HCS to take action in several ways, including hiring a third-party engineering firm to study the St. James Elementary building.

"We'd like to see," said Stefeny Wackerly, a St. James parent and co-organizer of Wednesday's meeting. "Are things being neglected? Do they need to be replaced? Can they be contributing to this?"

Another point of action in the petition asks HCS to define what an acceptable level of mold is in a school.

"We live by the ocean," said Jared Smith, who has a daughter in Kindergarten at St. James. "We live by the water. You're going to have mold. It doesn't matter, but you got to handle it."

Roderick says her daughter is nearly out of absences, but doesn't want her back inside that building.

"I don't think I'm comfortable enough doing that," she said. "I think she would progressively get worse. At this time, we are planning to homeschool her until we can hopefully resolve this or find somewhere else for her to go."

St. James elementary parents also discussed pushing for a bill in the state House of Representatives addressing mold removal in public buildings. You can watch the full meeting on the News13 Facebook page.

Many parents plan to explain their concerns to the HCS board at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in Conway.

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