Sept. 17, 2005 — About 100 parents of John H. Woodson Junior High School students told school officials Friday they want their children back in class as soon as possible. The principal of the school said their sentiments will help him persuade officials at the Department of Education what to do now while the wait for answers concerning health and safety conditions inside the school continues.
"The parents want the children to be in an education setting as soon as possible and so do I," said principal Vaughn Hewitt at the conclusion of an emergency meeting called by the school's PTA Friday night.
Woodson Junior High was closed on Tuesday after teachers complained about a persistent mold condition which some of them said was making them and the students ill. Environmental Concepts, Inc. a private contractor based in Atlanta was called in to test conditions in the building. During the meeting parents were told more tests would be conducted on Monday.
Hewitt said after discussing a contingency plan with the district superintendent of schools there was thought of waiting out the testing process before deciding whether to resume classes at the school. Now that he's heard from the parents, the principal he said he is inclined to seek another solution, although he said it would take another few days to work out the details.
"We were told they're in the process of getting a plan together in regards to what they will do with the students, whether the school will be shut down," PTA president Andrea Mc Intosh said.
The principal also said he would allow officials from the Health Department to carry out their own investigation if they show up at the school on Monday when the contractor arrives. A spokeswoman for Health said Friday that a doctor and members of the Division of Environmental Health appeared at Woodson on Thursday and Friday after receiving complaints from the public about the moldy school building.
"Dr. Tull, our epidemiologist, and our environmental health officers did go to the school on Thursday but found the facility was locked. They tried again (Friday), it was still locked, "Health Department spokeswoman Eunice Bedminster, said Friday afternoon. "I know for certain that they have been trying to get in touch with principal Vaughn Hewitt to no avail."
On Friday night the Hewitt said, "I want them to come in. I welcome any one who will come in and shed some light on this problem."
Some of the organizers of the Friday meeting, held at the St. Croix Educational Complex, said many of the parents who showed up were angry and at one point called for a petition to be drawn up, demanding the ouster of top Education officials. Mc Intosh did not say which officials were named as the subjects of the petition.
Hewitt said although he understood their sentiments he was glad to see 100 parents show up for the emergency meeting and wished he could have seen more, given the school's enrollment of 630 students.
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